Review: ‘We Were Killers Once’ by Becky Masterson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

In 1959, The Walker family murders shook Florida. As many as 587 people were considered suspects – but 60 years on the investigation remains unsolved.

Former FBI agent Brigid Quinn has been obsessed with the Walker case since she was a child. She believes it holds striking similarities to another high profile investigation of the time: the Clutter family murders, made infamous by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. What if Perry Smith and Dick Hickock – executed for those murders – had killed again? And what if there was a third killer, who remained unknown?

Jerry Beaufort has just been released from prison after decades behind bars, and though he’d like to get on with living the rest of his life, he knows that somewhere there is a written record of the time he spent with two killers in 1959. But following the path of the letter will bring Jerry into contact with the last person he’ll see as a threat: Brigid Quinn.

From the author of Edgar Award finalist and CWA Gold Dagger shortlisted Rage Against the Dying comes this unputdownable and fascinating alternative look at one of America’s most famous crimes.

I have been fascinated with the Clutter murders ever since I read In Cold Blood over twenty years ago. So when I saw that this novel offered an alternative look at that case and one that was linked to it I couldn’t wait to read it.

Brigid Quinn was just six-years-old when she first heard of the Walker family murders when her police officer father and his work buddies were discussing the case as she sat on his knee. Since that night she has been haunted by the unsolved case. Sixty years later she is a former FBI agent living with her husband, Carlo, in Arizona unaware that the case that’s been her obsession is about to affect their lives in unexpected ways.

Jeremiah Beaufort is being released after thirty three years in prison. But before he can enjoy his new found freedom he has business to take care of. Business that has threatened to catch up to him for most of his life. As he follows the trail of a confession by an old acquaintance, he is led to Arizona and a former priest named Carlo DiForenza. What he doesn’t realise is that it has also led him to the man’s wife, Brigid, who is passionate about finding the same answers that he’s trying to bury forever.

The author has created a perfect amalgamation of true crime and crime fiction with this gripping and believable novel. I love both genres and loved how she brought them together. I admit that part of my enjoyment of this book came from my fascination with the Clutter murders. Both main characters are connected to the infamous case in different ways and I loved the alternative version that was explored in this novel.

One potential drawback of this book is that both of the main characters aren’t likeable. Beaufort is unlikable in the right ways; we aren’t supposed to like the bad guy. He sees himself as intelligent and being called stupid or evil are his pet hates. Despite all he’s done he thinks he can’t be a bad person and justifies most of his actions. His many years in prison have made him an alien in the modern world and I thought that this aspect was written particularly well and allowed for some much needed humour at times. Brigid’s character could have been likeable but I found her obsession and jealousy of her husband’s late wife tiresome and felt like instead of humanising her, it undermined her  intelligence and made her appear whiny. It is good for a character to be flawed but I felt this flaw went a little too far. I did like that she maintained an understandable suspicion of people and would do anything to protect those she loved. She clearly has a great gut instinct and isn’t afraid to follow it.

We Were Killers Once is an intriguing, absorbing thriller. I didn’t know when I requested it that it is book four in a series and didn’t feel like I missed anything reading it as a standalone. A mix of fascinating fiction with tantalising fact re-imagined and woven through the pages, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves crime fiction and true crime.

Thank you to NetGalley, Orion and Becky Masterson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: June 13th.

 

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