“The Better Sister” by Alafair Burke is the account, as one would expect, of two sisters. As sisters, they share parents and childhood experiences, however, this is an Alafair Burke novel, so these two sisters share other things as well; they share one husband, one child, and a lot of drama. Everyone involved has secrets, mysterious and dangerous secrets. Their lives are complicated, and readers wonder just who is the better sister.
Much of the novel is told as a first person narrative by Chloe Anna Taylor, the younger sister. She is the successful editor-in-chief at “Eve” one of the last remaining successful feminist-oriented magazines in the country. In a revelation from fourteen years previous, she confesses to readers. “I betrayed my sister while standing on the main stairs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a beaded Versace gown (borrowed) and five-inch stiletto heels (never worn again).” Another startling disclosure sets the stage for the rest of the saga when she acknowledges “ten years after that, I’d be the one to find his dead body.”
Taylor talks to herself, and she talks to readers, going back and forth in time to fill in details from the past; “That was the first time, but it wouldn’t be the last.” She shares her plans; “I now had a role to play.” She confessions lies in the past, “When push came to shove, I was still a liar,” But is she truthful now? “At least, that’s what I told the police, but I could tell they didn’t believe me.”
Taylor’s first person narrative dominates the book, combined with online posts, comments from other people, and the police perspective of the pursuit, accusations, and investigation as the case unfolds. The police are incredulous; “I’m sorry, but that’s weird.” They are suspicious from the start. “Admit it…You don’t like her or what she stands for, so you want her to be guilty.” They plan their investigation; “She might have something to tell us about that perfect family.”
The plot is rich in complexity and moral challenges. The death was revealed in the prologue, but subsequent events unfold in an unanticipated manner. The deaths, the accusations, the arrest, the trial, all are traumatizing, startling, and dramatic. Actions from the past continue to influence conditions in the present. Sometimes the results are good, and sometimes not so good. Questions are asked; lies are told; truths are revealed, and appearances are shattered. Life becomes more and more complicated and readers see that turmoil from all points of view.
“The Better Sister” keeps readers guessing from the start as minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, life becomes more and more complicated. The ending is surprising, and yet satisfying. I was given a review copy of “The better Sister” by Alafair Burke, Harper, and Edelweiss. The plot is full of dramatic turns and startling revelations. I was glued to the pages.