Thicker Than Water: A Novel

Image of Thicker Than Water: A Novel
Release Date: 
July 11, 2023
Atria Books
Reviewed by: 

Julia and Sienna Larkin are sisters-in-law—Julia married Sienna’s brother Jason—but they are more than that. They are BFFs.

But when Jason’s boss, Gavin, is found murdered, and Jason ends up in a coma at the hospital from injuries sustained in an automobile accident, the friendship begins to shift.

To their horror, Jason is the primary suspect in Gavin’s murder, but with him in a coma, Julia, Sienna, and Detective Beck find themselves at a brick wall when trying to discover the truth.

Megan Collins does an exemplary job at creating characters in Julia and Sienna, as different as night and day. Julia is quiet, she holds everything in, even as she learns that Jason has been holding secrets from her and as she looks at the facts about Gavin’s death, she begins to wonder about the guilt or innocence of her husband.

Sienna on the other hand is in-your-face outspoken about her dedication to her brother, and she will tolerate no considerations otherwise.  As Detective Beck puts a police officer at Jason’s hospital room and explains to both women why Jason is the primary suspect, Sienna makes it quite clear that Beck is wrong, and she stands in his way at every turn.

The two different visions that these friends have of what happened the night Gavin was murdered force a crack in their friendship.

Enter two characters, each of whom casts further pictures of Jason’s relationship with his boss, and give the reader a deeper understanding of the history of each woman. Maeve, an employee at Gavin’s firm is a friend of Jason’s but as the story moves forward, it becomes apparent that her relationship with Jason is more than just a friend. Or is it? The story she gives about the night of Gavin’s death is devastating to Julia but gives Sienna more fuel to cast on the fire she has started to prove Jason’s innocence.

Wyatt, Sienna’s ex, is a police officer and although Sienna convinces Julia that Wyatt is out of her life, the truth is a different story, and she uses this past relationship to probe for more information about what the police have learned. In spite of warnings to remain out of the investigation, Sienna believes the police are not doing all they can and that their only goal is to prove Jason’s guilt.

The story is written in two first-person points of view in alternating chapters. Collins uses these points of view to create strong visual descriptions; she brings her characters and locations to life; everything becomes three-dimensional.

In Julia’s point-of-view, as she considers Sienna’s inability to see anything negative about Jason, she thinks, “It snatches my breath, how insensitive she sounds. Not to mention inaccurate. Jason’s affair—god, his affair—has already plunged me into such darkness that the silver can’t possibly shine through. As I buckle my seat belt, I don’t respond—because I shouldn’t be surprised. Sienna is hardwired to love her brother. She simply isn’t equipped to criticize him for long.”

And even when confronted with information she can’t refute, Sienna refuses to believe what she is told. “Because even though she’s right about parts of it—he lied, he cheated—there’s a world of difference between adultery and murder, a distance too huge for Jason to cross.”

Collins’ further description brings situations to life for the reader. “I don’t recognize my brother. His face is bruised to deep indigo around his nose and eyes. There’s an IV taped into place on his hand, which is speckled with blood the nurses missed. A bandage circles his head, the gauze stretched tight, and his body is hooked to so many wires he looks like a fuse box. Strangest of all is his mouth, stuck open with the plastic tube snaked into his trachea.”

The story follows a straight path as the women search for the truth, regardless of where this search could take them, and Collins leads the way convincingly. By the end of the story, everything makes such sense in terms of the truth that the reader could not otherwise see until the story ends.

This is a fast read with a satisfying ending—perhaps not a happy one, but one true to life in such a disastrous situation.