About[edit | edit source]
Amma Crellin is Camille’s thirteen-year-old half-sister. A mess of contradictions, Amma is the picture-perfect daughter when at home, dressing in little girls’ dresses and bows for Adora’s delight and spending hours meticulously working on a dollhouse designed to look just like her mother’s house. Amma, however, has a secret double life, the other half of which is filled with drugs, sex, and cruel machinations aimed at maintaining a complicated web of control over her school and friends. Amma purposefully subjects herself to her mother’s treatments and ministrations because she longs for the closeness being “sick” brings her and Adora—at the same time, she seeks to escape Adora’s clutches and exercise the dark mechanisms of control and intimidation she learns from her mother over the other girls in the neighborhood. During a drug-fueled romp through town, Amma confesses that she “hurts” to feel better—Camille thinks that her sister is referring to hurting herself, but in time an even darker truth comes to light. After Adora is arrested for the murders of Marian, Ann, and Natalie, Camille takes Amma to live with her in Chicago, believing her fragile and strange little sister to be in need of support. When Amma’s first friend in Chicago turns up dead, with six teeth missing, Camille realizes the horrible truth—Amma was responsible for Ann and Natalie’s deaths, having killed them for getting too close to Adora and then using teeth plucked from their mouths to make the ivory floor of Adora’s room in her dollhouse replica of the Crellin manse. Amma’s complicated desires for love, control, and submission—along with her fear of being shunned by others for what she has done—make her not just one of the most complex characters in the novel, but in the mystery and thriller genres more largely.