Review of How I’ll Kill You by Ren DeStefano @BerkleyPub

This is AI’s version of Woman reading a book on a fence. You’ve got to love it. I didn’t say the woman was sitting on the fence so AI interpreted literally. The book is on the fence. It’s fun, no? Anyway, imagine that perplexed looking woman is me although we look nothing alike. It’s been a very long time since I looked like a cartoon character. 😉 All of this is to say that Ren DeStefano’s How I’ll Kill You had me sitting on a mental fence. And still does. Read on.

Blurb: 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. 

Then something happens that Sissy never anticipated: She begins to feel protective of Edison, and 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?

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It began as a fit of anger, the feeling of betrayal, when the first of the triplets killed her lover who made promises he would never keep. After that the sisters made an oath that they would kill their lovers and they have, except for Sissy/Jade who hasn’t found the one yet. But it’s her turn and her sisters are expectant. Sissy sees Edison in a bar and knows he’s the one. She finds the perfect burial plot. Now all she has to do is figure out how she’ll kill him in Ren DeStefano’s How I’ll Kill You.

I am going to make a quick observation about the blurb before continuing with my review. Sissy/Jade is so stoic through most of the novel that despite having feelings for Edison, it’s not clear just how protective she feels toward him. I just wonder if the blurb isn’t kind of spoilerish itself.

Of the triplets, Sissy is the fixer. The one who cleans up the other’s messes. If you ever needed to get rid of a body and clean a crime scene so that the police would never find any evidence, she’s your woman.

How I’ll Kill You is told in first person, which does and doesn’t work. On the one obvious hand, we’re privy to Sissy/Jade’s thoughts but ultimately we never come to understand her sisters except for a hint of their true characters that emerges at the end. Also, the narration makes Sissy less sympathetic with her constant dwelling on the novel’s title: how she will kill Edison. Is she unreliable or just in need of really good therapy? Both, perhaps, but mostly the latter. By distancing the reader from the sisters, though, does this create more suspense? Especially if we’re not certain of what their actions/reactions would be and just what they’re capable of. Food for thought.

The novel is dark as are all of the characters with the exception of Edison’s step-daughter (but she does have dark things happen to her). Even Edison shows a dark side that draws Sissy even closer to him since she sees a reflection of herself.

While the reader might feel a touch (or a lot, depending on your perception) of sympathy for Sissy due to her circumstances, one never feels it fully because she never exhibits free will but allows herself to be manipulated from what she deems is loyalty and love. That’s one reason why I kept swiftly turning the pages. Logically, Sissy should spend her life behind bars, but will she? This quandary certainly makes for good discussion and debate.

Dark and twisty, a gripping page turner. That still has me firmly sitting on the fence.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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