This is a book that I just finished reading, thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC. Other than the books I read for Lone Star Literary Life, I don’t often finish a book and feel this compelled to write a review. But here goes. I hope you enjoy reading the review, and if you like a good suspense novel, consider preordering the book.
How I’ll Kill You
Publisher : Berkley (March 21, 2023)
Your next stay-up-all-night thriller, about identical triplets who have a nasty habit of killing their boyfriends, and what happens when the youngest commits their worst crime yet: falling in love with her mark.
Make him want you.
Make him love you.
Make him dead.
Sissy has an…interesting family. Always the careful one, always the cautious one, she has handled the cleanup while her serial killer sisters have carved a path of carnage across the U.S. Now, as they arrive in the Arizona heat, Sissy must step up and embrace the family pastime of making a man fall in love and then murdering him. Her first target? A young widower named Edison—and their mutual attraction is instant. While their relationship progresses, and most couples would be thinking about picking out china patterns and moving in together, Sissy’s family is reminding her to think about picking out burial sites and moving on.
But then something happens that Sissy never anticipated: She begins to feel protective of Edison, and then, before she can help it, she’s fallen in love. But the clock is ticking, and her sisters are growing restless. It becomes clear that the gravesite she chooses will hide a body no matter what happens; but if she betrays her family, will it be hers?
***** PREORDER LINK *****
The drama builds slowly to a blistering end, much like a soft breeze can blow across the Arizona desert and create a sandstorm.
On many levels this is not an easy book to read. The sisters, identical triplets who never had a normal life and were constantly torn apart by the foster care system after being found abandoned as toddlers at a rest stop, are deeply wounded.
They never knew their mother or father. Never knew why they had been abandoned. But abandonment and trauma through childhood does horrible things to a person, and so we have this trio of young female killers, who at first seem totally heartless.
Sissy, known as Jade to everyone in the small Arizona town where they have settled for a few months so she can fulfill her promise to go through with her first kill, has somewhat of a child-like innocence about her even though she’s done horrible things – dismembering bodies and cleaning up blood and helping her sisters cover up the murders throughout their six-year spree of finding victims and killing them.
The story opens with the three young women near Phoenix, far away from their last kill in Montana. The reader meets Jade as she sits in a diner, checking out the other patrons so she can choose the man who will be her first kill.
The rules of this deadly game the sisters play have them taking turns finding a victim, then spending time making the man fall in love with them before killing them. In their twisted thinking, this is a way that they can have control over love. They will leave the lover; the lover will not leave them like their parents did.
Not rational, but not much about the three sisters is. And, trust me, it works in this story.
In the acknowledgments, the author states that the writing of How I’ll Kill You took almost eight years, and it’s evident that much care was put into every aspect of the story. The plot, the characters, the pacing, the surprises: Things are not completely what they seem to be, and the people are not completely who they seem to be.
When I read a novel, I do so as much for enjoying the craft as well as the actual story, and this author doesn’t miss a beat. The last line in the story is so perfect and so satisfying.
We writers often struggle to find just the right words. Just the right amount of words – no more, no less. And I could tell that Ms. DeStefano agonized over her last line as much as so many of us have, perhaps writing ten different “last lines” before finally finding the one that is just right. She did it!
At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book because I don’t care for stories that put a serial killer center stage, asking us to somehow relate to him or her. I couldn’t do that with the popular Hannibal series, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do that with this book either.
However, I did connect with Jade, and Edison, and Dara, and Sadie, and some of he other members of the superb cast. Even the two other sisters, Moody and Iris, were almost likable at times. There was an undercurrent of goodness in all of the characters that pulled me in.
Add to that, the turmoil that Jade went through as she realized that she truly did love this man, Edison, but did she love him more than her sisters? That was the question that I wanted to find the answer to. Even though she fantasized about how she would kill him, she just wasn’t sure she could do it, and there was an internal struggle between Sissy and Jade that was wonderfully compelling.
If you like a taut thriller with wonderful undercurrents, I highly recommend How I’ll Kill You.
Ren DeStefano lives in Connecticut, where she was born and raised. When she’s not writing thrillers, she’s listening to true crime podcasts and crocheting way too many blankets.