The elements of a very good mystery or thriller are there, and the book takes us into the greed-filled, dog-eat-dog underbelly of the financial world in New York City, which was very interesting to experience. The setting seemed incredibly real, and it was clear the author either had experience within the world of finance or had done her research, or both. Plus, the book has a great title and hook for a thriller.
Unfortunately, this almost seemed like an early draft to me, and it made me wish there had been much more rigor during the revision process, so that exposition was trimmed to the essentials, and whatever was left was woven into the action or conveyed through dialogue. There were large portions of exposition or backstory in this that seems like the type of thing that you might see when a writer is first jotting down ideas, without yet finding a way to bring them to life. And while the main character, Sara, and a supporting character, Lucy, were very specific and well-defined, the other characters seem to fall a bit flat.
The book’s summary: In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they'll do anything to get ahead. When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator, the dark secrets of their team are laid bare, leaving the four of them dangling on the precipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they’ll have to solve one final puzzle: which one of them is a killer?
This summary sounds amazing, but I wish that the story had fully lived up to its promise. For me, this book would be closer to a 2.5. Still, it was a fun read, and I think the author has a lot of potential to write great thrillers as she grows in her craft.
Girls Like Us is a gripping, gritty and raw thriller set in Suffolk County, New York, where the disparity between rich and poor is sharply drawn. The characters are complex and interesting, and the main character, Nell Flynn, is so compelling that this could be the start of a series. Riveting and engaging from start to finish, this book will appeal to fans of the thriller genre, as well as anyone who likes police procedurals or strong, yet flawed, female protagonists, which is sort of my jam. I read this very quickly because I couldn’t put it down!
When we first meet FBI agent Nell Flynn, she is on a boat with a few officers from the Suffolk County Police Department, scattering the ashes of her father off the coast of Long Island. It’s her first time back in ten years, and she has been forced to return to the home where her mother was brutally murdered years ago in order to deal with the sudden death of her father following a motorcycle accident. When her father’s partner, Detective Lee Davis, invites her to visit a crime scene with him, Nell becomes involved in an investigation into the murders of Ria Ruiz and Adriana Marques, two young Latina women in Suffolk County. The deeper she digs, the more likely it seems that her father is heavily involved, and his friends on the police force seem to be covering his tracks. Nell, who is increasingly plagued by doubts about who her father was and how her mother died, must decide whether to uncover the truth behind these murders in Suffolk County at the risk of paying the ultimate price.
Alger’s last book, The Banker’s Wife, had all of the elements of a thriller – twists, turns, murder and intrigue. Girls Like Us has all of these elements in spades, but, in my opinion, has moved more towards literature. By that, I mean there is more depth and nuance to the story, and the characters are more deeply developed, allowing me to feel more connected and engaged with them. This is especially true of the main character, Nell Flynn. Nell is sharply drawn, with a clear and interesting back story, some good flaws and a lot of grit. I truly loved this character!
Alger made Suffolk County come to life on the page, differentiating between the circumstances of the hard-working people who live there year-round and the extremely wealthy and privileged, who only inhabit their Hampton mansions during portions of the summer. In many ways, this was the perfect setting to juxtapose the way the law operates differently for those who ‘have’ and those who ‘have not.’
Like Alger’s other work, there are a number of surprises in Girls Like Us, one of which nearly made my jaw drop. It was such a shock that I literally had to go back and reread it. But layered on top of this compelling thriller is a timely and important exploration of the unfair hierarchy of individuals based on race and class within the U.S., which is reflected in our justice system. This, in part, is what makes the title, Girls Like Us, so compelling. Nell, a woman whose maternal grandfather and grandmother crossed the border from Juarez, is investigating the deaths of two Latina girls whose lives somehow seem to matter less, even though they shouldn’t. But read another way, the title could also be a testament to the strength and fortitude of women like Nell Flynn and the Latina girls she helps, who fight to survive no matter what the obstacles, no matter what the cost.
Thank you to Shelf Awareness, NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the chance to read this ARC.