Book Review and Excerpt: How I’ll Kill You by Ren DeStefano

  • Title: How I’ll Kill You
  • Author: Ren DeStefano
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • Buy link: Amazon (affiliate link)


Your next stay-up-all-night thriller, about identical triplets who have a nasty habit of killing their boyfriends, and what happens when the youngest commits their worst crime yet: falling in love with her mark.

Make him want you.
Make him love you.
Make him dead.

Sissy has an…interesting family. Always the careful one, always the cautious one, she has handled the cleanup while her serial killer sisters have carved a path of carnage across the U.S. Now, as they arrive in the Arizona heat, Sissy must step up and embrace the family pastime of making a man fall in love and then murdering him. Her first target? A young widower named Edison–and their mutual attraction is instant. While their relationship progresses, and most couples would be thinking about picking out china patterns and moving in together, Sissy’s family is reminding her to think about picking out burial sites and moving on.

But then something happens that Sissy never anticipated: She begins to feel protective of Edison, and then, before she can help it, she’s fallen in love. But the clock is ticking, and her sisters are growing restless. It becomes clear that the gravesite she chooses will hide a body no matter what happens; but if she betrays her family, will it be hers?

My review:

How I’ll Kill You has an interesting premise: triplet sisters, abandoned at birth, raised in the foster care system. After a childhood full of disappointment, betrayal, and hurt, they learn that they can only rely on each other. When Iris, the oldest, snaps and kills her much older lover, Sissy, the youngest by just minutes, handles the cleanup and makes sure Iris won’t be found out. They decide then that they’ll never let men hurt them again; rather, they’ll take lovers, win them over, and then kill them.

As Iris and Moody leave a growing number of corpses across the country, Sissy ensures no trace is left of her sisters’ crimes. She’s the one who keeps them off of law enforcement’s radar. She’s always been the steady one. The sensible one.

Until now.

It’s time for Sissy’s first kill. She sees him in a diner in Rainwood, Arizona, and she just knows. He’s her mark. As her assumed identity of “Jade,” she’ll have six months to win him over and make him love her before she bids him the final farewell. None of them counted, though, on Sissy falling in love with him.

This story goes some dark places. It’s a pretty scathing indictment of the foster care system, where the girls were either cared for but couldn’t stay, treated with indifference, or actively harmed. However they were treated, they came out of the system damaged. The book is also stark in its descriptions of how Sissy handles a cleanup job, so if you’re squeamish, be prepared.

But the book has its beautiful parts, too. Love of family is central to the tale, even if that love has been twisted and misguided along the way. Sissy and her sisters love each other and have each other’s backs. The relationship between Edison and Sissy is genuine, and Sissy’s internal struggle when facing a choice between her sisters and a man she didn’t expect to love made me want to hug her. Sissy also finds an unexpected friend in their neighbor Dara, her first real friend outside of her family.

My prosecutor brain couldn’t help but think what a nightmare this would be for law enforcement. Three identical siblings – how could you ever prove which one actually committed the crime? Of course, they’d have to get caught first….

How I’ll Kill You is a solid four-star read for me. Read on for an excerpt – see if it might be your cup of tea!

Thanks to Berkley and Netgalley for a review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.


If not for my sisters and the tragic circumstances of our upbringing, I would be living an empty life and bound for heartbreak.

It started when we were nineteen.

Iris called me, frantic, in the middle of the night. She had her own apartment above a laundromat in downtown Clovis. She was so proud of that place—all five hundred square feet of it. She kept it tidy and burned incense at all hours to hide the smell from the dumpster in the alley outside her bedroom window. At night, there was the persistent throb of the bar across the street, the music loud enough to rattle the porcelain angel figurines on the shelves. They’d come with the place, and Iris had decided they made her living room look homey—a word she’d never used before, because we’d never had a home.

“Just come,” she’d sobbed and then hung up. All of my calls went straight to voicemail. I sped the whole way over there, sure that someone had just climbed up the fire escape to murder her. But what I found was a different sort of violence.

Blood, deep and dark, pooled on her oriental rug, and splattered across the angel figurines.

She’d been sleeping with her old high school guidance counselor—a fifty-one-year-old married father of two. He strung her along for months, promising to leave his wife. He broke her heart a hundred times, and then Iris plunged a kebab skewer through his.

“You watch all of those crime shows,” Moody said, emerging from the kitchen with a bottle of bleach she’d found under the sink. “Help us make this go away.”

 We moved with a practical calm, the three of us, and when it was through, Iris’s ill-fated lover was resting in six garbage bags, wound tightly with duct tape. If it were only one of us, or even two, I’m sure we would have been caught. We would have missed a detail. But we were a perfect team, the three of us.

 After a lifetime of being torn apart, we were finally together, finally able to help one another in all the ways we never could when we were being jostled helplessly by the foster system. All those years of loneliness, of wanting, of being kept apart, had brought us to this desperate moment. Knee-deep in the water of the San Joaquin river in the velvet black night, we weighed the pieces of the man with rocks, and a promise started to form. In the coming days, it slowly became obvious what we needed to do.

We wouldn’t deprive ourselves of love, but our hearts would be weapons. We would love the men we found completely and without inhibition, put a lifetime into our brief time together. Live out every fantasy we desired. And then we would kill them.

There would never be another lover to break one of us. We would break all of them first.

“Excerpted from HOW I’LL KILL YOU by Ren DeStefano published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023 by Ren DeStefano”

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