How I'll Kill You

How I'll Kill You

by Ren DeStefano
How I'll Kill You

How I'll Kill You

by Ren DeStefano


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Notes From Your Bookseller

Get ready to root for a psychopath. How I’ll Kill You is a coming-of-age story, a love story and a fresh entry into the thriller field that will grip you from the moment you open the cover.

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. 

Then something happens that Sissy never anticipated: She begins to feel'protect've of Edison, and 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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593438305
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/21/2023
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 167,364
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Ren DeStefano lives in Connecticut, where she was born and raised. When she’s not writing thrillers, she’s listening to true crime podcasts and crocheting way too many blankets.

Read an Excerpt


"What about that one?"

My sister whispers into the phone, as though anyone but me can hear her. She's excited, and I feel my own heart starting to race at the prospect of what's about to come. I've only helped identify the mark before. I've never picked one for myself.

I'm sitting alone in a booth at the roadside diner, cradling a lukewarm cup of black coffee. It's Saturday and there's a lunch rush. Forks and plates and laughter all around me. A little girl keeps turning in her booth to smile at me. She holds up the drawing she's made on her paper place mat and I flash her a thumbs-up. She giggles and turns back to her family.

"Which?" I ask. My Bluetooth headset is hidden by my hair. When I look through the window, I catch my faded reflection. Dark curls. Small-rimmed glasses with slender frames. They're cheap readers I bought in a gas station six states back, and even though they're the lightest corrective lens I could find, my vision is still blurry when I look through them. Beggars can't be choosers. We were limited to places that wouldn't have surveillance cameras, which meant only stopping for gas in the middle of nowhere.

I don't look like myself. It took an hour to curl my wavy hair, the curling iron charged in the car's cigarette lighter. I burned my neck twice, and I can feel the sore starting to rub against the collar of my blouse.

My identical sister is watching from the silver car in the parking lot. Even with these lenses, I see everything, and so does she. No one draws a breath near us that we don't know about.

From where she's parked, my sister watches me. Every mirror in the car is adjusted just so. I chose a seat by the only window with broken blinds.

"Red jacket at the bar," she says.

I know who she means. Red Jacket has been sitting there since I ordered my first refill. He touches the straw in his half-empty glass of ice water and scrolls through his phone. It's been a good ten minutes and he hasn't ordered anything. I shake my head. No good. He's waiting for someone. Probably a date. He doesn't have a wedding band. Wives are messy but girlfriends are even messier. Worse yet-siblings. The best mark is someone who is utterly and completely alone.

Maybe this diner was a bad idea. I've been in Rainwood for less than two days, and already I can see that it's a family town. This place is crawling with kids. Everyone is dressed like they're going to church.

The bell rings as a new patron opens the door, and I raise my eyes over the rims of my glasses.

He enters the diner shrouded in a beam of afternoon Arizona sun. For a moment I think he's looking at me, but then I realize he's eyeing the motorcycle in the parking lot through my window. His? No. He's got car keys in his hand. No helmet, and his hair is neatly trimmed and combed. He wears it coiffed, but I can see that it would be curly if he let it go. Thick chestnut waves are just starting to form, likely soon to be cut short.

He's got a square jaw, cheeks flushed by the waxing summer heat. Muscles and a blue button-up shirt. His eyes are bright and brown, lit up like there's a sun behind them. All of him glowing.

I imagine what he will be like: He has a mom who loves him. He calls her on Sundays. He crouches down to pet dogs when they strain on the owner's leash to sniff his shoes. He drives with the windows down and the sun beating hard on his skin, and he sings along and knows all the words. Our eyes will meet from across the room at a dinner party and he'll wink at me before turning back to his conversation.

There's a girl somewhere out there who broke his heart. He still feels it, a little knife twisting deep in his chest when he's reminded of her. But he'll never let on. He won't tell me about his past for a long, long time. After spending the day together, we'll sit in comfortable silence and he'll feel vulnerable, and he'll take a deep breath and say, Can we talk?

Moments yet to come flick through my head like shutter clicks from an antique camera, and I realize that he has always been in me.

An old doo-wop song is playing softly, barely audible amid the din, and at once it's as though a church choir is humming it just for us.

He doesn't see me because he isn't supposed to. Not yet. I am just a tiny little planet in a black, black galaxy, surrounded by debris and dead stars. But I see him, and that's all that matters.

I stare down at my coffee. The neon light swims like a wobbly moon on the dark surface. I can feel my sister watching me, waiting for me to speak.

I say, "I found him."

There are about a thousand ways I could do it. Slice a box cutter through his jugular or slip antifreeze into his coffee so it happens slow. I don't know how I'll kill him yet, but I know that, for him, I'll come up with something special.

I leave cash on the table for my coffee and a tip, and nobody notices me when I slip outside to meet Moody in the car.

Moody and I have always been especially close. Before the first murder, we talked about it. We composed stories in our heads and then shared them with each other, adding to each other's ideas with new details. "Yeah, yeah, I like that!" and "I bet it would smell like . . ." They were just fantasies. Our first fantasized victim was the counselor at Moody's group home, a wiry man with red hair who never smiled. He told Moody that he was tired of her bullshit and that was why she could never find a permanent placement.

"I'd slash his throat," Moody had snarled at me. She wrote about it with red pen in a peace-sign journal, and I added to it with my thin purple Sharpie, until over the weeks we had composed a little novel in rainbow colors of all the ways he would die. Next, a man I saw on the news who left his dog tied to a fence to die in the Texas heat. And then Moody's foster father. When we were first separated at age five, I went to live with a family in a blue house with rosebushes out front, and Moody was sent to a couple who collected foster children for the state checks. Her foster father spent all day in a recliner that gave him a full view of the kitchen, and he'd shoot his BB gun at her whenever she tried to open the fridge between meals.

Those fantasies and that shared journal bonded us through years in which we were utterly powerless. They connected us so that we never felt alone.

Now we're driving through endless desert. Already I love the landscape, bare and open and honest. Just dirt and sky. I bet it never rains here when monsoon season is over, and the dry ground is ever-shifting, and the wind will blow away my tracks. I could walk for hours across that yawning brown earth; I could splatter it with blood and fat drops of sweat. The heavy, fragrant kind of sweat that comes only when you've really exhausted yourself and your muscles burn. When you've earned it. And by morning that ground would all be clean again, as though I'd never existed at all.

We're a good five miles out from the diner before my sister looks at me. We are completely identical, right down to the curls she worked into her own hair after I'd finished with the curling iron this morning. We do this in case one of us needs to pretend to be the other in a pinch. She's wearing oversize sunglasses that hide most of her face and she takes a deep breath. Gratified. Tasting the air. Committing this day to her memory so that we'll be able to share it forever. Years from now, we'll huddle up and whisper and giggle about that day at the diner when I found my first mark. We'll live inside it like a snow globe: The cacti in the distance. The lizard running across the road, narrowly avoiding our tire. The mark's license plate and his green Buick gleaming hot in the parking lot.

My sister didn't see the mark's eyes, though. That part is just for me. That otherworldly deep brown that was practically glowing. Look at me, I'd thought, even though I knew he couldn't. It would ruin everything if he'd noticed me.

Those eyes. I feel warm at the memory, lines of nerves shooting electric up and down my legs.

My sister says, "I'm proud of you."

She breaks me out of my daydream, but still I smile, feeling like a little girl. Her approval means everything to me. Even though we're the same age, I've always felt like I was the youngest. More naïve than I should be. Unlike my sister Moody, who wears her body with confidence. She is sweet first, and then before you realize you've fallen for her, she is sharp and deadly. I would pity the men she's left in her wake if their hearts had meant anything to me.

"You did that all on your own." Her fingers flex and tighten on the steering wheel. "You showed great instincts, Sissy."

"Sissy" is what she's called me since we were babies, and it's as real a name as any I've ever been called, but it's a secret that we don't share with outsiders. Town after town, I adopt whatever name is on the IDs we are able to make up. Now that we're in Arizona, I'll be Jade Johnson. Johnson is one of the three most'common'names in the state. Google "Jade Johnson" and you'll get a thousand results. Makes it easy to fake an identity and disappear before things get hairy.

"I just felt him, Moody," I say. "It's like we talked about." I'm breathless. Butterflies fill up my chest and spread their wings. "He walked into the room and I could see everything that was about to happen."

Moody laughs. "All right, but you know that's only half of it." She nods to the open road. "We've been driving for a while. See anything that stands out yet?"

I force myself to be alert. I look at the paper map laid out in my lap. It came with the car and I don't think it was ever unfolded before I opened it. But we can't use a smartphone for this part. We left it back at the apartment, so if anything happens, I can say I was home.

"Pull over here at the ten-mile marker," I say.

"You sure?" Moody raises her eyebrows over her glasses. "It's really out in the open. You'll have to drag him a long way."

"No, I won't," I say, proud of how sure I sound.

She veers over. There's nobody around. We're miles out from anything, but I know that this won't be true for long. I've done my research. This land will be cluttered in a year. Modular homes, made to order, on brand-new roads carved like black snakes into the desert. People will be born here. Raise their children here. But right now, for just a little while longer, it's nothing but me and Moody and the lizards.

I climb out of the car. The door slams as Moody gets out behind me. She stands beside me, and together we look up at the massive white sign.


I feel Moody's smile. "You clever bitch," she says, and wraps her arms around my shoulders.

This day is wonderful and warm. I feel like I've just been kissed. I feel like I've just burst through the ribbon at the finish line of a triathlon.

"Walk me through it," Moody says, letting go of me.

"I drove by yesterday while you were still asleep," I say. I point to the cranes in the distance. Beams are neatly piled. A cement mixer stands idle. "I'll have to keep a close eye on the papers and see how the development is coming along. They'll do the roads first. I could bury him where they pour the asphalt."

"What are the risks?" Moody asks, challenging me.

"Before they pour the asphalt, they'll excavate the soil," I say. "Anything soft, like pebbles or loose dirt, will be packed down. I'll have to bury him before they do that, but so deep they never reach him when they start to excavate."

"What if they pave right after?" Moody asks.

"They won't," I say. "Once the asphalt is poured, it has to be compacted right away. For something so big as a subdivision, it'll take all day. They'll excavate and do the prep the day before."

I wait for Moody to give me a hypothetical challenge, but she crouches low, hiding herself behind the front tire on the passenger side. A second later, I see the red pickup truck slow to a stop on the opposite side of the road.

The driver rolls down his window. He's old enough to be my father, with a full head of silver hair, a white wifebeater, and arms like tree trunks. "Afternoon, honey," he says. "Did you get yourself a flat tire?"

He hands me the explanation so that I don't have to come up with one myself. I gnaw pensively on my lip. "I think I hit a nail," I say. "But it's fine. I called my dad."

I'm twenty-five, but I look much younger. If I fidget and raise my shoulders shyly, I'm still in high school. I've got finals coming up, a boyfriend who kisses me clumsily, but I'm too innocent to sleep with him until we're married. I know nothing about life, and I see all older men like they're father figures.

I fall easily into these roles because I have to play them all the time. The man buys it a little too much. He gives me an endearing smile that makes my stomach lurch. He is ruining my perfect day with his sweaty, flushed face. He puts his truck in park, turns off the ignition.


"Get rid of him," Moody hisses at my ankles. My eyes flit to her for just a second. I'm trying.

"I bet I can get you up and running before he gets here," the man says. He's huge. Probably muscular back in his prime, but flabby now, with a round gut that hangs over his faded jeans. "Which tire?"

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