The Last Widow
Karin Slaughter has been an auto-buy author for me since 2010, so this review has been a hard one for me to write. The Last Widow is the ninth installment in her Will Trent series, and I was initially drawn to its undercover plot. Unfortunately, the part of the book that dealt with Will going undercover fell completely flat.
It’s possible to read The Last Widow without having read the previous books in the series, but it’s not something I’d recommend. Ms. Slaughter has woven a complex web of character relationships that can only be understood by reading the books in order, so I’d suggest starting way back at the beginning with Blindsided, the first book in her Grant County series, which will eventually tie into this one. However, if you’re put off by such a large backlist, the mystery itself will make sense even if you haven’t read the previous books.
Medical examiner Sara Linton is enjoying Sunday dinner with her family when two explosions occur in a nearby neighborhood. Sara has no clue what has exploded or who is responsible, but she knows her medical expertise will be needed on the scene, so she and Will Trent, the FBI agent she’s been involved with for several years, hurry to the scene, both determined to help in whatever way they can.
As soon as they arrive, Sara begins attempting to treat a man who appears to be unconscious. Will stands back, observing and offering Sara some assistance while they wait for other medical personnel to arrive, but before Sara can get very far in her assessment of the man’s injuries, she’s seized and forced at gunpoint into a car, leaving Will behind.
Will is tempted to chase the car down on foot, but logic prevails and he decides to call in his colleagues from the Georgia FBI office to help discover who took Sara. Amanda, his boss and one of the smartest, toughest women Will knows, immediately starts a search, but she refuses to let Will in on the investigation, and he hates the idea of cooling his heels while Sara is in danger.
Meanwhile, Sara is being held captive by a group of domestic terrorists. At first, the reason for her abduction was unclear to me, but I eventually figured out that they wanted her to treat a strange illness that is affecting the children of some of the group members. The group’s leader promises to let Sara go as soon as the illness has been successfully dealt with, but she almost positive he’s lying. After all, she’s seen his face and knows far too much about some of the deadly attacks the group is planning to carry out.
Will eventually convinces Amanda to let him go undercover, posing as a potential group member. He hopes to bring Sara out alive, but danger awaits him at every turn.
First off, novels about terrorism aren’t really my thing, but I decided to read this one because of how much I’ve enjoyed Ms. Slaughter’s other books. Plus, stories that center around someone going undercover are my catnip, so I figured I could deal with a bit of terrorism as long as the story was good. Unfortunately, very little about The Last Widow turned out to be something I’d call good, leaving me disappointed when I finally finished reading.
There is a load of build-up to Will’s eventual infiltration of the terrorist group, but the undercover mission itself doesn’t start until about three-quarters of the way into the book. I wanted to see less of the preparation and more of the actual mission. As it was, I felt extremely let down by the way Ms. Slaughter chose to handle this aspect of the novel.
The best thing about the book is the relationship between Sara and Will. Readers familiar with the series know these two have had a lot of obstacles in the way of their HEA, but they’ve managed to stay strong in their commitment. Their strengths and weaknesses complement each other so well, and although they don’t spend a great deal of time together in this particular installment, the page time that is devoted to them is utterly fantastic. Neither Will nor Sara is particularly comfortable with their own vulnerability, but the author excels at showing their softer sides, allowing the reader to see past the tough exteriors they show the world.
Devoted fans of the series may be more likely to enjoy this entry than those coming to it for the first time. It’s definitely not the strongest book in the series. In fact, I think it’s my least favorite of them all, but it also contains some nuggets of information that seem to be important for future installments, so skipping it completely might not be advisable. My only suggestion is to concentrate on what’s good and ignore the rest, even though I know that’s far easier said than done.