Karin Slaughter's new thriller is an epic tale of love, loyalty, and murder that encompasses 40 years, two chillingly similar murder cases, and a good man's deepest secrets. Will Trent is a brilliant agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Newly in love, he is beginning to put a difficult past behind him. Then a local college student goes missing, and he is inexplicably kept off the case by his supervisor and mentor, deputy director Amanda Wagner. Will cannot fathom Amanda's motivation, until the two of them literally collide in an abandoned orphanage they have both been drawn to for different reasons. Decades before - when Will's father was imprisoned for murder - this was his home… Flash back nearly 40 years. In the summer Will Trent was born, Amanda Wagner is taking her first steps in the boy's club that is the Atlanta police department. One of her first cases is to investigate a brutal crime in one of the city's worst neighborhoods. Amanda and her partner, Evelyn, are the only ones who seem to care if an arrest is ever made. Now the case that launched Amanda's career has suddenly come back to life, and it is intertwined with the long-held mystery of Will's birth and parentage. And they will each need to face down demons from the past if they are to prevent an even greater terror from being unleashed on Atlanta today.
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My heart is still thumping as I pull my mind back from the dark recesses where it has been dwelling the past 15 hours...this is the stuff from which nightmares are borne. Karin Slaughter is one of our best. With her crackling originality and vivid details, she once again creates characters and events that you think could be out your own newspaper - and pray they aren't.
Followers of Slaughter will recognize this as part of the Will Trent series, something I did not know; there was no mention of "series" in the publisher's summary. But this story easily stands on its own and should not be passed by if you are worried about sequence. I speak from experience: I noticed that I'd read 2 of the books years ago and had no idea they were a series. With that said, I'm sure there is information that would have been good to have, and I am tinged green with envy of the devout followers of the Will Trent books; I can only imagine the great satisfaction this long awaited tell-all will bring to them. (I'm even considering picking up the between rerads, here's the order: Triptych, Fractured, Undone, Broken, Fallen, & Criminal).
Detective Will is baffled when his hard-nosed boss Amanda restricts him from the case of a missing girl. To Amanda, there is something eerily familiar and threatening with this case, and when the brutalized bodies start to show up, she knows she is on a collision course with Will -- a collision full of dark secrets that has been 40 years in the making --and she isn't sure she wants to reveal the answers. "Sometimes it's criminal what a woman has to do..."
One of the great mechanisms Slaughter uses is starting this book with a quiet prelude of sorts, a reverent requiem. She introduces us to Lucy,we witness her -- the young daughter full of promise, the little sister, the insecurities and drug use to control her adolescent weight -- we watch her downward slide -- the predictable addiction, string of abusive boyfriends, and eventual plunge into prostitution. Slaughter creates a human being; Lucy is a person rather than just another wretched addicted prostitute. This approach creates an emotional bond to the victims, and explains deputy director Amanda's bulldog determination, and humanity.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks, back to the 70's when Amanda was a novice detective, fighting her first case, pitted against a squad of resentful sexist males that don't want the girls around. (Remember "male chauvanist pig"?) The resistance is abussive and hard edged.The men crassly refer to she and her partner as the "slits", and at one point, when the ladies call in for back-up on Cherry Street, the male dispatcher remarks, "What's that? You want to give me your cherry." This treatment, plus the horror she witnesses in her first case bely how tough Amanda will have to become.
One noticeable change in style is Slaughter's handling of the nauseous gore.(Something that kept me from picking up another Slaughter book after I'd read 2.) Instead of her ususal in your face detail, she presents the grossities more like a quick visual spanning of crime scene photos, allowing the listener to fill in the blanks. The change doesn't affect the jolt...the story is still tight and tense with layer upon layer of pulse-pounding apprehension. The edge-of-your-seat anxiety reminded me of The Silence of the Lambs, and the creepiest deviant ever created, Buffalo Bill. The monster in Criminal is reminiscent of Bill (and they share an affinity with needles and thread...). I would have liked to see Slaughter pry into this psycho's sick mind, and think she may have missed a chance for the psychological underpinning that could have made this ghoul memorable and kept this story forever in our minds. (But do we really want that haunting us?)
I couldn't put my earbuds down--the pace was exhilarating, the execution of the narration very very good. Though harsh, I don't recall a lot of foul language, but the intense scenes may have kept my mind from noticing particular words. The flashbacks help build some backstory and character development for those just jumping into this story, but you have to pay close attention or you can lose track of which era you're in. If like me, you've been craving a smart thriller, and you don't mind a few nightmares, this may be your book. Highly recommend to fans of hard- hitting criminal thrillers.
What a great book. Never ending storyline, past & present with lots of twists & turns. Brilliantly written & preformed. An endearing love story in the mix, emphasizing that good people will embrace your life & push out the evil it you let them.