BOOKLIST: Starred Review
May 15, 2019
GIRLS LIKE US by Cristina Alger
New York’s Suffolk County Police Department, established in 1960 to address the rise in crime and traffic issues resulting from the dramatic growth of the 1950s, had a sterling reputation well into the new century, when things went bad in a big way. The conviction of Police Chief James Burke in 2016 on a civil rights charge exposed a crooked cop culture involved in sex trafficking, among other criminal endeavors. That history inspired this excellent crime novel in which FBI agent Nell Flynn joins the investigation of a string of grisly murders that leads her to suspect her own father, SCPD Homicide Detective Martin Flynn. She also begins to question her recollections of the night her mother was murdered. The victims in the case under investigation were sex workers, their severed remains bound up in burlap sacks, as were the real-life victims of Long Island’s sadly unsolved Gilgo Beach murders. Lifelong New Yorker Alger describes the atmosphere of the area’s parks and beaches well. She captures the social dynamics of Suffolk’s eastern extremes perfectly. The first-person narrative is appropriately terse—Nell delivers a thorough report—but it occasionally surprises with a gripping depth, such as when she reflects on how unsettling a murder scene can be, about the “darkness that clings to the air long after the killer has departed.” Highly recommended, although perhaps not as a beach read.