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Book: “Like a Sister” by Kellye Garrett
Publishing Info: Mulholland Books, March 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.
Book Description: A twisty, voice-driven thriller for fans of Megan Miranda and Jessica Knoll, in which no one bats an eye when a Black reality TV star is found dead in the Bronx—except her estranged half-sister, whose refusal to believe the official story leads her on a dangerous search for the truth.
When the body of disgraced reality TV star Desiree Pierce is found on a playground in the Bronx the morning after her 25th birthday party, the police and the media are quick to declare her death an overdose. It’s a tragedy, certainly, but not a crime. But Desiree’s half-sister Lena Scott knows that can’t be the case. A graduate student at Columbia, Lena has spent the past decade forging her own path far from the spotlight, but some facts about Desiree just couldn’t have changed since their childhood. And Desiree would never travel above 125th Street. So why is no one listening to her?
Despite the bitter truth that the two haven’t spoken in two years, torn apart by Desiree’s partying and by their father, Mel, a wealthy and influential hip-hop mogul, Lena becomes determined to find justice for her sister, even if it means untangling her family’s darkest secrets—or ending up dead herself.
Review: Sometimes a good book can be a balm during very trying times. That has become abundantly clear during these past two years, though sometimes a fresh hell will be a good reminder of that, since this pandemic hell can sometimes fade into the background because it’s been with us for awhile (ugh, how depressing). My personal fresh hell was one of my cats having a sudden health spiral, and at nearly 18 years of age (14 of which were with me and my husband) we had to put her down. As her health deteriorated over the course of a few days, when I wasn’t tending to her and wrangling my toddler, on my down time I needed an escape. Enter “Like a Sister” by Kellye Garrett, a thriller mystery I got from Book of the Month that had been on my radar for a bit. It kept me well distracted and entertained when I really, really needed to decompress.
Garrett has a great set up for her mystery. Lena Scott finds out that her reality show star half sister Desiree has been found dead, in the Bronx, in lingerie, with signs of a drug overdoes. Though Lena has been estranged from her, she is struck with grief, and also refuses to believe that Desiree OD’d. So she starts to investigate what could have actually happened to her. That is a hook in and of itself, and we follow Lena as she has to unpack and untangle the complicated life her sister had built in the past few years. Garrett does a really good job of creating a hook, but also carefully exploring all of the suspects that Lena comes upon, as well as many of the things that Desiree had been up to that give various suspects very clear motives of why they would want her dead. I really enjoyed the twists and turns, and while I called a few of them here and there, a lot of the time I was surprised or tricked. We also get the story told through Lena’s voice, as well as through descriptions of various social media posts that Desiree has made that give hints as to what is going on, and I like how both could be insightful as well as deceptive. Lena as a main character is enjoyable to follow, and while sometimes her voice was repetitive I thought that she had a very clear perspective (I really liked how Garrett used this to talk about a lot of pressures as racism she faces as a Black woman; from having to don a ‘Strong Black Woman’ demeanor at all times to preconceptions about who she is as a person due to her race and her family, these moments flow very well and feel very realistic.
But I also really loved the complexities between all of the characters in Lena’s family circle, not just that between her and Desiree, and how her deliberate distancing from much of her family has worked both as armor and also as grief. Lena is determined to find out what happened to Desiree, unwilling to believe the narrative that seems logical, but is also bogged down in societal ideas about race and wealth. But Lena also admittedly didn’t really KNOW Desiree anymore in the months leading up to her death, as their estrangement was bitter, and perhaps this guilt is what is driving Lena’s determination. The other relationship that is fraught (and had more interaction in the moment) is the one between Lena and her father Mel, the record mogul, who left Lena’s mother for Desiree’s mother, and seemingly left Lena in the dust. Lena resents Mel and tries to keep her distance, but resents him for respecting that distance, and the unsaid resentment about his public relationship with Desiree weaves in and out of Lena’s investigation. Mel is one of the more mysterious characters, who sounds a lot like Suge Knight, but who has many depths that Lena can’t, or won’t, acknowledge. These circumstances of the estranged father and daughters means we have more mysteries to unravel for Lena, and a lot of emotional baggage to go with the murder mystery. Which Garrett depicts very well.
I really enjoyed “Like a Sister”. It’s very entertaining and will hold your attention, and if you’re looking for a thriller with some well done family strife, this is a good pick. It certainly helped me get through a very difficult week due to how darn enticing it is.
Rating 8: A gripping mystery that has complicated family relationships at the center, “Like a Sister” is a compelling thriller.