This month’s Book Report features the most recent domestic suspense novels from two writers who have written popular mystery series, as well as standalone novels.
Alafair Burke has authored 18 books, five of them the “Under Suspicion” series with the legendary Mary Higgins Clark, two series of her own, and five standalone books. Her latest standalone, “The Better Sister,” is thematically related to her two most recent successful books, “The Ex” and “The Wife,” but with different characters.
In “The Better Sister,” Chloe, the executive editor of the highly acclaimed feminist magazine Eve, returns home from an awards banquet where she was the honoree to find that her husband, Adam, has been murdered. Chloe knew that the spouse was the first suspect in the mind of the police, so she did everything in her power to be helpful.
Things become complicated when the police turn their attention to Adam’s teenage son, Ethan. Ethan is the son of Adam and his first wife, Nicky, Chloe’s older sister. When Ethan was a toddler, Adam returned home to find Nicky face-down in their pool, with Ethan by her side.
He divorced Nicky and moved to New York, where he and Chloe eventually fell in love, married and raised Ethan. Nicky was out of the picture — until Adam’s death. Since Chloe was not Ethan’s legal mother, Nicky returns to take custody of her son.
Chloe and Nicky revert back to their familial roles: Chloe was the good girl who followed the rules and worked hard, Nicky was the partier with little sense of responsibility. Can they work together to clear Ethan?
Burke is a former prosecutor, and she knows how to write a courtroom scene that rings with truth and tension. And every parent’s heart will sink at the thought of their child in the situation that Ethan finds himself in.
“The Better Sister” is the perfect blend of character and plot. The characters drive the plot, and each character has secrets they are hiding that show they are not the person others believe them to be. This is a book you’ll want for a long airplane trip — time will fly as you furiously flip the pages to find out who did it.
Lisa Scottoline has written 41 books, including two series, several humorous nonfiction books and 15 standalone mysteries. Her newest standalone, “Someone Knows,” also deals with a big secret that drives the plot.
Allie comes back to her hometown for the funeral of a man she had a crush on in high school 20 years ago. No one knows why David killed himself, but Allie is sure it has something to do with a tragedy that she, David, Sasha and Julian have lived with for the past 20 years.
After Allie’s sister died of cystic fibrosis, her family fell apart. Her mother couldn’t get over her grief, and her father couldn’t help her. When three of the cool kids in school bring Allie into their small group, she hopes that David will be her boyfriend.
Something bad happens one day in the woods, and the group breaks apart. Allie goes away to college, and marries a great guy, but can’t get over her guilty feelings. It drives a wedge between her and her loving husband, and Allie realizes she must find out the truth about what exactly happened if she is ever to find peace in her life.
But the two remaining people who know, Sasha and Julian, don’t want to talk about it. They have moved on, and don't want Allie to stir up the past.
The end of the book is filled with suspense, and you’ll be biting your nails and holding your breath, especially as everything comes to a furious conclusion. I found myself screaming, “Don’t go there, what are you thinking?” at one point. If it was a movie, I’d be peeking between my hands covering my eyes. (And it should be a movie.)
Scottoline really nails the teenage mind: The inability to think things all the way through, the longing to be part of a group, and the willingness to follow instead of doing what you know is right.
She also brings great empathy to Allie’s family situation when her sister dies. The family can’t find their way to grieve together, and it’s heartbreaking. Scottoline’s books get better with each one, and “Someone Knows” is among her very best.