By Rana Asfour
For those of you who follow my book choices, you'd know I'd just finished reading 'A House Without Windows' which starts out with the discovery of an Afghani woman drenched in the blood of the corpse laid out beside her. Well, coincidentally, here's another one that starts this way too, only this time the murder weapon is in the woman's hand as the first chapter opens with the police charging in and shouting orders for her to drop her weapon. Beside her is a body, 'its hand outstretched, reaching for her even in its stillness'. The murder scene is set in St Petersburg, Florida, and the woman is Charlotte Burke, mother of kidnapped and murdered five-year-old Ruby.
Ruby Burke, granddaughter to St Petersburg's 'reigning king', the powerful judge Sterling and his 'Ice Queen' wife is found murdered on the beach after her kidnap a few days prior to the opening scene. Assigned to the case are detectives Joe Nakamura and his recent partner detective Alice Garner, recently transferred to Florida from DC who despite all evidence to the contrary is all too reluctant to cast blame on the victim's mother. Instead she believes that the evil they search for hides behind the guarded Burke mansion and with the help of her partner Nakamura, she sets forth to substantiate her narrative.
It's not long though before the case starts to take its toll on detective Garner whose daughter, we soon find out, suffered a similar fate to Ruby's. Lila, Garner's daughter, had also been five years old when she was taken on an early November day, later found 'discarded by the side of the road as if she hadn't been worth the time to hide'. Unlike Ruby's murderer though, Lila's murderer was finally caught and we know is serving life in prison. And so it is taking all Alice's willpower to keep it all together in order to carry out her crusade in revealing 'the monster who could do such a thing to a little girl' especially that the accumulating evidence seemed to clearly indicate that Ruby had known her killer.
As the investigation proceeds we are introduced to the list of possible suspects headed by the schmoozing Judge Sterling widely known for his congeniality but who nonetheless is far from perfect with a rumoured reputation 'for going easy on Frat boys while sentencing anyone to the max with a skin colour darker than pure white'. His domineering presence shadows the course of the investigation and detectives Alice and Nakamura have to tread carefully where this powerful man is concerned.
Under Alice and Nakamura's scrutiny fall the 'isolated' and peculiar Burke women. The mothership Hollis, who Alice first meets at a station fundraiser and observes is one who revels in the anxiety, the nervousness, the fear' that being in her presence caused those around her; Older daughter, 'expensive but somehow gaudy' Mellie who, like Charlotte, did not have a job, outside of a few select charitable boards approved by their mother. She lived at the Burke mansion with her combative teen daughter Trudy. And finally the troubled Charlotte Burke herself, beautiful, kind yet aloof and suffering from 'dissociative episodes'.
The scope of investigation soon extends to suspected friends and acquaintances and the novel shifts between points of view of the Burke family members so that we are given privileged access to inside information regarding the Burke women's secret complex lives and the people they associate with - information the two detectives are not privy to until a few chapters down in the novel. An effective tactic by the author that allows readers to become actively involved in the search to pinpoint the eventual villain.
As Alice and Nakamura desperately race to stitch together the patterns and connections that will lead them to Ruby's killer, they not only find their lives more intertwined with the Burke's complex story but they also risk lifting the lid on secrets the Burke family members will go to desperate lengths to keep hidden in a bid to preserve the family's pristine image. It becomes only a matter of time before we realise that ultimately it is the driving force of desperation that spurs the entire cast of players right up to the novel's sensational, jaw-dropping reveal at the end.
'Juries,' Alice tells Nakamura at one point, '... wanted to be told a story. Facts didn't really matter to them, but narrative did. There needed to be an engaging plot, a hero if possible, and, the most important part, a villain. Someone to blame.' - 'Girls of Glass' ticks all the boxes delivering that and so much more. Brace yourself for one hell of a ride.
Brianna Labuskes is an Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestselling author of psychological thrillers. She lives in Washington, D.C. working for media organisations that cover the minutia of Capitol Hill and the White House. 'Girls of Glass' is her second novel. Her first novel 'It Ends With Her' was released in May 2018.