Friday, April 19, 2019

"The Better Sister"

Alafair Burke is a New York Times bestselling author whose most recent novels include The Wife and The Ex, which was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel. She also co-authors the bestselling Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she now teaches criminal law and lives in Manhattan and East Hampton.

Burke applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Better Sister, and reported the following:
The main character in The Better Sister is Chloe Taylor. She’s smart, successful, and focused like a laser. But page 69 is told from the point of view of Detective Jennifer Guidry, who is investigating the murder of Chloe’s husband, Adam. Guidry is the only character who gets her own POV chapters, which are interspersed among a story otherwise told from Chloe’s first person point of view.
DETECTIVE JENNIFER GUIDRY plucked another gelatinous piece of candy from the tear in the upholstery of the passenger seat of her department-issued Impala. If her count was right, it was the seventeenth one so far—not counting the one Chloe Taylor had found. She wondered how long Bowen had been stuffing them in there. If she had to guess, it probably started around the time she called him out for that weird thing he kept doing, rolling up little strips of Scotch tape and dropping them into a coffee cup. If only he were as obsessive and compulsive about police work.

She closed the car door and made her way back to the Dunham house across the street, which she had left only forty minutes earlier. Andrea Dunham was still in her robe when she answered the front door.

Andrea kept clutching at the collar to cover her chest, even though she was wearing some kind of tank top beneath it. Guidry thought about telling her to go upstairs and do whatever she needed to do to be less fidgety, but she was working on fumes and needed to get home to catch a few hours of shuteye.

Andrea gave a small laugh when Guidry asked whether she and Chloe Taylor were close. “Sorry,” Andrea said, “but you saw their house, right? And you see the one you’re sitting in now. No, we don’t exactly hang out….”
The scenes from Guidry’s perspective allow the reader to know more about the investigation than Chloe knows and to see Chloe and her family through a stranger’s eyes. I also like Guidry as a character in her own right. She’s smarter than her partner (Bowen, who has apparently been stuffing Mike and Ike candies in a tear in the car upholstery), but isn’t bitter about it.

She’s fair-minded and thorough as an investigator, and that’s why she’s back at Andrea Dunham’s house, asking about Chloe outside her presence. That short exchange at the bottom of the page hints at the class divisions that permeate The Better Sister. Chloe and Adam are city people in East Hampton, a part of the community but always apart from it. And class is just one of the many attributes that now separates Chloe from her older sister, Nicky, who returns to Chloe’s life after Adam is murdered, because did I mention that Adam used to be married to Nicky? And that Nicky is the mother of Chloe’s stepson, Ethan, who becomes a suspect in Adam’s murder? There’s a lot happening beyond the little details working their way through Guidry’s mind on page 69.
Visit Alafair Burke's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Ex.

The Page 69 Test: The Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue