Book review: The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

Friday, May 24, 2019 Permalink

Every time I read one of her books I confess my love for Alafair Burke. I’m not as wedded to her series with Mary Higgins Clark as I am to her solo books, but she has offered up consistently good legal thrillers for years. Plus I like the way she interacts on social media. #seriously

I also like that her books often offer a taste of contemporary culture and politics – here through the #MeToo and #ThemToo movement as well as light (and deft) reference to the current US political and legislative environment.

Book review: The Better Sister by Alafair BurkeThe Better Sister
by Alafair Burke
on April 18th 2019
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Legal Procedural, Crime Fiction
ISBN: 0571345549, 9780571345540
Pages: 320

For a while, it seemed like both Taylor sisters had found happiness.

Chloe landed a coveted publishing job in New York City.

Nicky got married to a promising young attorney named Adam McIntosh and became a mother to a baby boy named Ethan.

But now, fourteen years later, it is Chloe who is married to Adam. When he is murdered at the couple's beach house, she has no choice but to welcome her estranged sister - her teenage stepson's biological mother - back into her life. When the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect, the sisters are forced to confront the truth behind family secrets they both tried to leave behind in order to protect the boy they love, whatever the cost.

I’d assumed the relationship or tension between Chloe and Nicky would be the prevailing theme in this book. It’s not however; despite the title. I mean, it’s there… unsaid, but in a (thankfully non-clichéd) surprise, Nicky actually seems happy that her sister was able to be the mother Ethan needed.

That generosity seems kinda strange, particularly given we know about the sort of person Nicky had been, but Burke slowly unpicks her backstory which explains a lot.

When the book opens it’s very much about Chloe and the career she’s fought to build. She touches on the fact that her own career and earnings have outshone her husband’s but it’s something they’ve seemingly discussed and he’s okay with. We do learn though there’s some tension between Ethan and his father, Adam being the stricter parent with high expectations of his son. And now Adam’s working in the corporate world he misses his old life as a prosecutor where it was black vs white and right vs wrong.

Adam’s murder then moves the book into a legal procedural and this is what Burke does well. Interestingly though the thing I didn’t love was that we jumped forward in time on several occasions (to the next stage of the court case) and I can only imagine Burke does this to keep the book (and timing of legal proceedings) as realistic as possible. Damn these authors who were ACTUAL lawyers / prosecutors and wedded to realism! 🙂

We settle into a mix of investigation into possible whodunits, several ‘reveals’ of secrets and lies, and finally a few twists I did not see coming.

We’re in Chloe’s head so it’s her we know best  though Burke does reflect on the relationship between the sisters and how their formative years (Nicky is six years older than Chloe) shaped them and I enjoyed that insight and context. We don’t get to know much about her (personally) but I liked Ethan’s lawyer Olivia who takes no crap from the two mothers in Ethan’s life.

So, a great read and one that poses a few moral dilemmas for readers… therefore possibly an ideal bookclub book.

The Better Sister by Alafair Burke was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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