Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger is fast-paced crime fiction taut with murder, family drama, police corruption, and human trafficking. If you think that's too much to pack into a 276-page novel, you'd be wrong. Alger weaves all the threads together in this novel. Thank goodness it rained today, so I could read it in one sitting. Well-placed clues scattered throughout led me to some guilty parties. I did solve one crime correctly by the end, but I definitely got the murderer wrong.

Nell Flynn, an FBI agent who works for the BAU, returns to Suffolk County, New York, for her father's funeral - a man she's been estranged from for over ten years. Marty Flynn, a cop with a drinking problem and a bad temper, died in a motorcycle accident after drinking too much. Case closed. Police officers Nell has known her whole life sing her father's praises and offer their condolences.

While Nell finalizes her father's meager estate, a body is found in a nearby wealthy enclave. Marty Flynn's most recent partner, Lee, asks for Nell's unofficial assistance with the case. The victim is a young escort found shot once in the forehead, bound , and encased in burlap. The disposal method and location echo a case from the year before. A case Nell's father failed to solve, and now, Lee suspects they might have a serial murderer preying on young escorts who cater to the wealthy residents. 

As Nell picks away at the case, she uncovers corruption that stretches from the local police all the way to men in power in Washington, DC. Nell comes to suspect her father may have played a bigger part in the deaths of the two working girls and possibly the murder of Nell's own mother years ago.

I liked Nell as a protagonist. She is flawed by her past, but not in a "I'm so damaged that I drink and act like a man to hide my weakness" way that so many authors get wrong. I also liked that there was no romance except for a fleeting moment of interest. Nell doesn't need a man to rescue her or muddy the waters with too much sexual tension.

This was an edge-of-your-seat psychological mystery which tears away the privilege of wealth and seeks justice for the undocumented and working girls who often go unseen. I recommend this novel for those who enjoy grittier mysteries. Not quite a thriller, and definitely not a cozy, it satisfies the need for the guy, or in this case, the woman in the white hat to win against the bad guys.

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