“The Better Sister” by Alafair Burke is the story of two sisters; one is — to all appearances — perfect. Chloe might be the younger sister, but she has achieved what few do, fame, wealth, a very important job, accolades, and even the perfect husband and son. In reality, the son is her nephew and her husband is her sister’s ex-husband.
Her sister, Nicky, is the screw-up. Nicky never went to college, partied too much, worked low paying jobs, lost low paying jobs, and eventually lost custody of her son. Years later, Chloe and Adam married, raising Ethan as their son. But lately, things in Chloe’s life are not going so perfectly.
In fact, Adam seems distant and arrives late to an awards banquet honoring Chloe. When they go to their home in the Hamptons for a weekend, Adam is murdered. And because Chloe has a perfect alibi, the police turn their attention to Ethan. There is much evidence that Ethan and Adam’s relationship wasn’t perfect. In fact, Ethan has had his problems, and those emerge slowly over the course of the story.
Nothing Chloe does can remain private for long. She is the editor-in-chief of a women’s magazine, and she gained fame when she took the #MeToo movement and made it even more relevant by featuring everyday women whose lives were affected by sexual discrimination. She gained many fans but also many haters, and the haters are very vocal on social media.
After the police charge Ethan with the murder and he is in custody, Nicky comes to New York to support Chloe and Ethan. Chloe slowly grows to realize that Nicky has changed. Chloe is determined to find out what Adam was doing in the mysterious few days before his murder when he wasn’t at work and lied to her about his whereabouts. But the police are sure they have found their killer and aren’t interested in Chloe’s questions.
So Chloe starts to investigate. A little more than halfway through the book, Ethan’s trial begins, and more information is shared about Ethan’s relationship with his father. The reader will begin to suspect that Ethan did kill his father. But there are other suspects, too. In fact, it’s at this part of the book that the reader will find it almost impossible to put down the book. The courtroom drama rings true, in part because Burke is not only a gifted writer but also an attorney. And at the end? Burke isn’t satisfied with one great twist; she includes two.
From the beautifully written narrative and the cleverly constructed plot to the relationships between the sisters and the boy who is a son to them both, “The Better Sister” is a must-read book. And at the end, when all the cards are on the table, the reader is left to wonder: Who is the better sister?
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Harper, the publisher, for review purposes.