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.