Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger

Heart-racing action and a twisty-turny plot star in this thriller of multigenerational cops and murders.

Cristina Alger (The Banker’s Wife, This Was Not the Plan) crafts a gripping story of suspense with Girls Like Us. Fans of murder mysteries packed with action and plot twists will be satisfied by this edge-of-the-seat adventure into seedy Suffolk County.

FBI Agent Nell Flynn has returned home to the unbeautiful end of Long Island to sprinkle her father’s ashes, close up his house and move on. It’s her first time back in 10 years. She’s on leave from the Bureau following a traumatic on-the-job shooting, recovering from injuries both physical and emotional. Her father, homicide detective Marty Flynn, had some good buddies on the force, and it’s nice to see them again, but Suffolk County doesn’t hold many pleasant memories. Then Marty’s last partner, Lee Davis, with whom Nell went to high school, asks for her help on one last case. Two young women have been murdered: “working girls,” the cops call them; one of them was undocumented. These are the kinds of lives the department doesn’t really value. In their details, though, these murders take Nell back to the murder of her mother when Nell was seven years old.

Is there a serial killer at work in Suffolk County? Is there a link to Nell’s past? What exactly was her father’s involvement? Was his death really an accident–and was she wrong to alibi him on the night of her mother’s death? As clues mount up and point in different directions, Nell is less and less sure of who she can trust. Her wounds are not at all well healed, but she may be the only one who can prevent more deaths.

Girls Like Us is a little weak on certain details–the way a deadbolt works, the difference between prostitution and pandering charges, how a field agent might tell a suspect was dead. But its plot drives with such momentum that these details may be overlooked. With violent action and split-second turns, this is not a book to put down easily: plan accordingly. Alger’s thriller is emphatically plot-driven, but her characters hold their own, from Lee, who doesn’t quite fit in on the force, to the guys Marty Flynn was closest to in the department and the retired cop who runs the local bar.

As an added complication, the new murders and that of Nell’s mother may be class-based, as the rich summer people of the Hamptons meet the working-class section of Long Island, where Nell and the Suffolk County Police Department guys are from. Nell is a quintessential damaged cop, even if she is FBI: ignoring her own injuries, pushing too hard, taking foolhardy risks, with a strong sense of right and wrong (as her father seemed to have). Her personality serves as backbone to the electric plot of Girls Like Us, and the reader trusts that she will follow through to the truth, no matter how much it hurts.


This review originally ran in the June 3, 2019 issue of Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade. To subscribe, click here.


Rating: 6 deadbolts.

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