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This is the latest crime novel from Karin Slaughter, featuring Sara Linton and Will Trent and as I expected, it was excellent.
Allison Spooner, a young student from Georgia Tech has been murdered; a murder made to look like a suicide. Following his arrest, Tommy, the chief suspect has committed suicide leaving behind a message written in his own blood, "Not me". Sara Linton, back in Grant County to spend Thanksgiving with her family suspects that Tommy was innocent, given his low IQ and that the police are somehow involved in a cover up and she calls on the help of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). Will Trent is asked to give up his holiday and go to investigate.
This book is currently only available in hardback and can be bought from Amazon for £9. However, I'm sure every library in the land will have at least one copy for loan. That's where I got mine from.
The prologue detailing the murder of Allison immediately draws the reader into the story, engendering feelings of empathy for the victim and a desire to see that justice is done. Allison is a young backwoods southern girl, working her way through university and with a real chance to make something of herself and now, all that's been taken from her. But the thing with a Karin Slaughter book is that although justice may eventually be served in some ways, it isn't always as clear cut as maybe you'd want it to be, because her books always reflect the gritty realism of life and, as we all know, life has a nasty habit of throwing curved balls.
This book is the second one to feature both Sara Linton and Will Trent together. Sara, of course, was a lead character from the Grant County series and Will has featured in three previous novels, the last one being Genesis in which Karin Slaughter seamlessly blended the two series into one.
It's possible to read Broken as a standalone novel but to fully appreciate the story it would probably help to have read the previous Grant County and Will Trent books. It won't be a waste of your time, they're all excellent crime novels.
Most of the regular characters in this series are flawed human beings. Both Sara and Will, too, are somewhat damaged, both of them carrying a good deal of excess emotional baggage.
Sara is still grieving for her dead husband, Jeffrey, a former chief of police in Grant County. I have to say here that not only was his death devastating for Sara, it was pretty devastating for me too! I'd invested a lot of time and emotion in that character and following his death I felt a tremendous sense of loss. It's a testament to the writing skill of Karin Slaughter that she made Jeffrey into such a fully rounded character that a fictional death could have such an effect.
Sara feels a great deal of loathing and resentment towards Lena Adams, a Grant County detective, who she holds ultimately responsible for Jeffrey's death and as she feels that it's through Lena's bad policing that Tommy's suicide has happened, she's determined to bring her to book. She is also concerned that the excellently run Heartsdale police force that was her husband's legacy has been besmirched by current events.
Will Trent was raised in various children's homes and although an excellent and thorough detective, he is a dyslexic, something for which he feels great shame and tries to hide from his colleagues for fear of losing his job. He's married to Angie, a frequently absentee wife, with whom he grew up in the orphanage. This is more a marriage based on shared early experiences and mutual emotional needs rather than one of love and partnership, and the benefits seem to be all on Angie's side.
Although the reader knows the details of Allison's murder, we don't know who has committed the crime, nor the subsequent murder of Jason, Allison's boyfriend, or even whether it's the same murderer.
Be warned, this book is not for the squeamish and the murders are recounted in some detail, followed by vivid descriptions of the conditions of bodies, discovered several days after their deaths. However, this is never gratuitous and is always relevant to the story.
As the investigation progresses, Sara and Will begin to work together as a team, almost as well as when Sara worked alongside Jeffrey. With regard to Lena, Sara is completely blinkered and Will's more objective view, counterbalances this very well. I did find the fact that Sara, a doctor, could be so unsympathetic towards the fact that Lena had once been raped and yet express great compassion for Will's shame over his dyslexia. Even allowing for the fact that she blames Lena for Jeffrey's death and doesn't particularly like her, common human decency would surely make her more understanding.
There is definitely a growing attraction between Sara and Will and call me an old romantic but I get the feeling that eventually they may become more than just good friends and crime solvers, although they have a long way to go before that can happen.
As well as being a crime novel, this book details the gradual disintegration of a group of police officers, following the death of their charismatic leader. Nobody, it seems, is good enough to fill his boots and the cracks soon begin to show. Where before all the members of the team had a shared loyalty to Jeffrey, now it's every man (or woman) for themselves.
Karin Slaughter grew up in a small Georgia town and it shows. She writes with authority about the way small town people interact with each other, often closing ranks when confronted by an outsider. She's also done a great deal of research into police procedures and the process of autopsy in all its gruesome detail, some of it quite stomach-churning.
The success of this book, and others that Karin Slaughter has written, is that every character, however minor, is well-rounded and realistic, all of which brings the entire story to life.
Broken is a satisfying read in which the regular characters are developed further and with regard to the murders committed, I was kept guessing until the end. There will be more from Sara and Will, of that I'm sure, as there are still lots of loose ends and storylines which need to be resolved.