The Good Daughter
The Good Daughter crawled under my skin and messed with me, y’all. I was reading it in an airport and struck up a conversation with the woman next to me, who was also reading a book by Ms. Slaughter (Pretty Girls, for the record). This was my first of the famous author’s works, while my single serve friend was an established fan. She told me it was her second time through that book and already had this one on pre-order. “Her characters make me uncomfortable and challenge me,” she said when I asked why the re-read of a suspense novel. “It’s about so much more than who killed who, it’s always about how the people grow or change or surprise you. They nibble away at my notions of humanity and I love it.”
What a concept, eh? “Nibbling away at notions of humanity” is a phrase that tumbled around in my head as I finished this book and I’ve decided I agree with it. There are tropes in this, as are to be found in any good novel, and the whodunit is central to the story. However, there are really about seven whodunits here, some involving murder, some involving vandalism, and some involving emotional crimes like infidelity or betrayal, with no bloodshed whatsoever. Complicated and layered, this story will stay with you, which is exactly what it’s designed to do.
Any review of a mystery or a suspense novel will, of necessity, be somewhat truncated. I abhor spoilers of such material, and AAR does as well, so I’ll keep this brief. Trigger warnings for kidnapping, rape, PTSD, and murder. As in many books of this ilk, rape is woven throughout the narrative; not only the actual act, but the ramifications of it. Consensual sex is alluded to, but this story does not focus on it.
Twenty-eight years ago, Charlie and Sam Quinn were eating dinner while waiting for their dad to get home. But instead of a quiet family dinner, two masked men broke in and murdered their mother. One girl fled through the woods and the other was buried alive. While both escaped and lived, what life looked like after that was clearly different. The event fractured both girls individually and collectively; their family was obviously never the same.
We spend the first part of the book with Charlie, who has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer in their small town of Pikeville. Her marriage is falling apart, or already has, and she’s unstable on her best days. The events of her childhood have never really resolved, but instead linger malignantly in her psyche. The book opens with Charlie witnessing a crime that dredges that malignancy to the surface, forcing her to confront things compartmentalized long ago.
The book twists and turns, and I found myself gasping out loud at several points. There were few clear heroes; most of the characters are murky and their motivations not clearly known. Who is fundamentally good, but making choices I disagree with, vs. who is fundamentally bad, but appearing good? I spent so much of the book unsure of whom to trust and was both unsettled and comforted by that. I knew I was in good hands with Ms. Slaughter – she knew where we were going and I simply had to settle into the ride.
The ending is only quasi-satisfying, which is why this book isn’t a DIK. Additionally, while I appreciate the perspective of the woman I met, I don’t feel a need to spend more time with these folks. They did nibble away at my notions of humanity and I’m glad they challenged me, but I believe I’ll turn to Ms. Slaughter’s back catalogue instead.
If you enjoy psychological thrillers that grab you from page one and don’t let up until you read “The end”, then pick up The Good Daughter.