A Book Spy Review: ‘The Better Sister’ by Alafair Burke

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On the surface, Chloe Taylor is living a glamorous life, happily married and raising her stepson while working as the editor-in-chief of a prominent women’s magazine that has helped give way to the #MeToo movement. However, not everything in her life is perfect, and when her husband turns up dead, she’s forced to form an awkward alliance with her son’s biological mother . . . who happens to be her estranged sister. 

Growing up, though she was younger, Chloe was always more mature than her older sister, Nickey, who spent her younger days partying. Not much changed as Nickey grew older, either, continuing her ways well into adulthood. She married Adam McIntosh, a successful lawyer, and they had a son together named Ethan, but their marriage quickly fell apart and Adam fought for, and received, full custody of Ethan.

Years later, Adam moved to New York City, where he began connecting with Chloe, a popular feminist whose hard work has landed her a solid career and comfortable bank account, and the two wed despite the fact that he’d divorced her big sister. Things were going great until Chloe returns home from a night in Hamptons to find Adam murdered in their home, prompting a police investigation that exposes a darker homelife than the couple projected to those around them. 

For starters, police like someone close to Adam for his murder, and with Chloe providing a rock-solid alibi, detectives turn their attention to Ethan, now a big, strong, strapping teenager. Turns out, Ethan and his dad had somewhat of a rocky relationship, full of arguing, yelling, and the occasional threat of being sent to military school. Chloe doesn’t believe for a second that Ethan is capable of murder, but his less than forthright answers to police questioning eventually makes him the prime suspect, leading to his arrest.

Hearing all of this, Nickey travels from Cleveland to the Big Apple in an effort to help Ethan, where she reunites with her little sister who’s been raising her son while playing the mother and wife role she always wanted for herself. The two sisters try to set their differences aside, but their shaky alliance threatens to crumble as old family secrets are brought to light, and in the end, they’ll each be tested in ways they never imagined. 

Alafair Burke delivers one hell of a whodunit, wrapped around a brilliant drama about family, relationships, and sister rivalry. Careful not to hit readers over the head with all their backstory at once, Burke’s latest thriller starts fast, pulling readers in from the get-go, before she skillfully and slowly pulls the curtain back a little more with each passing page. The main characters, especially Chloe and Nickey, are developed nicely, as Burke wades through their unique relationship without ever taking her foot off the gas pedal. And just when you think you have this one figured out, she lands her best twist yet.

Burke brings her A-game here, drawing on real-life themes that add a timely and relevant feel to The Better Sister . . . but the real magic lies in the mystery at the heart of this powerful family drama that packs a major twist and an ending that’ll leave readers stunned.

Book Details

Author: Alafair Burke 
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062853376
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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