Australian crime author Katherine Kovacic has moved away from her Alex Clayton series of art-based mysteries to dabble in the revenge thriller. Recent books like Debra Oswald’s The Family Doctor and Nina D Campbell’s Daughters of Eve, among others, have taken their narrative drive from the issue of domestic and family violence in Australia and consider what might happen if people stop standing by and start taking direct action. Kovacic also goes this way in Seven Sisters and builds to a gut punch that illuminates another side of this pervasive social issue.
Naomi has been seeing Mia, a trauma counsellor, to help her to process the death of her sister Jo at the hands of her partner. Mia suggests that Naomi join a mutual support group that she has created called the Pleiades (as they call themselves after seven sisters in Greek Mythology). despite some scepticism, Naomi goes along. Naomi finds plenty in common with the group of five other women who have all lost their sisters to violent, controlling men all of whom ended up either not facing any punishment or getting off lightly. At Mia’s urging the group agrees to kill the six men responsible, taking a cue from Hitchcock (Strangers on a Train) in that while the deaths will be made to look like accidents, each killing will specifically not involve the one group member who is connected to the victim.
Kovacic gets the murky morality out of the way fairly quickly to focus mainly on the revenge itself. And the Pleiades are frighteningly good at what they do. Each of the actions has its planning, its twists and its setbacks but the premise remains essentially the same: whether these women, and by extension the reader, can attain some satisfaction in seeing awful people get their comeuppance. Which makes the story interesting but not always thrilling. Kovacic maintains some tension through a police investigator who does not believe (rightly as it turns out in this case) in coincidence.
While this is in some respects a revenge fantasy, there is a serious side to this and the other books mentioned above. Kovacic uses the tale to tell all too common stories of control, abuse and ultimately murder. And Mia’s backstory, played out across the novel, considers what happens when women do actually try to fight back. It is a story that readers need to keep being reminded of so that as a society we not have to rely on a group of avenging angels to redress the balance.