The first book I read by Karin Slaughter was Pieces of Her. Like our reviewer, I couldn’t put it down and, upon finishing it, I read EVERY SINGLE NOVEL she’s written. That said, Pieces of Her is bonkers and I wasn’t crazy about Andy, the young woman whose mother’s past is told in the book. Thus, when I saw that Andy was the lead in Slaughter’s most recent work, Girl, Forgotten, I was somewhat apprehensive.
I need not have been. Here, Andy is a well-rounded, sane detective whose behavior never veers into batshit crazy or TSTL behavior. Instead, she’s methodically trying to solve a cold case in the small, insular town she’s moved to in order to leave behind the trauma of the events in Pieces of Her. (Girl, Forgotten can be read as a stand alone but you’ll understand it much better if you’ve read Pieces of Her.)
Andrea is now a US Marshall and has been assigned to protect a judge, one Esther Vaughn, the subject of violent death threats. Forty years ago, Esther’s daughter, Emily was brutally attacked and left brain dead. She was kept alive long enough to deliver the child she was carrying and then died. Her murder remains unsolved. The Vaughns still live in Longbill, Delaware as do Emily’s teenage circle of friends all of whom had reasons to harm Emily.
This case is also connected to Andrea’s birth father, the murderous Clayton Morrow, who, after being jailed for thirty years for things he did in Pieces of Her, is up for parole in six months. Clayton, born Nicholas Harp, hailed from Longbill and had a connection to Emily back in the day. Andrea is determined to find out what truly happened to Emily, in part because she is trying to determine if Clayton was Emily’s killer–Andrea very much does not want Clayton to be free and were he to be charged with more crimes, he’d remain incarcerated. Furthermore, something is still very wrong in Longbill- including a nearby fava bean farm run by two of Emily’s old friends whose workers are almost all emaciated, terrified young women.
This is a dual timeline tale. We see the final months of Emily’s life in 1982–and whoa, the early 80s do not come off well here. So many cults, drugs, and horribly privileged, sexist and racist males! Still, I enjoyed these chapters–Emily, though overly naive, is a smart, intrepid young woman and it’s harrowing to see how the choices she makes sentence her to death. Slaughter is a gifted world builder and, in this past as well as in the present, Longbill is a vibrant and believable community.
I was less enamored of the storyline in the present. The fava bean farm–a truly horrible place–mirrors the contexts of several other Slaughter books. If you’re looking for yet another Karin Slaughter novel where odious men confine, abuse, and discard innocent young women–and she has too many–this one’s for you. I also just don’t care about Andrea’s polemic spouting father, Clayton Morrow. He’s EVIL. We know. Move on.
I did, however, appreciate Adrea’s detective work and her relationship with her partner Leonard ‘Catfish’ Bible, an older Marshall whose insights and personal life are routinely amusing. As usual, Slaughter does a superb job of melding her stories and the final chapters are compelling. And though the violence inflicted on women–a hallmark of Slaughter’s work–is present, it’s less on the page than usual and has less of a torture porn vibe.
I will continue to read Karin Slaughter–MORE WILL TRENT BOOKS PLEASE–and if you’re a fan of her work, you’ll like this. Indeed, if you read smart, can’t put down mysteries, this fits the bill. It’s not my favorite of the author’s work–that’s a tie between False Witness and Criminal–but it’s a strong book and I recommend it.
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