I have read all three books in the Will Trent series this year and enjoyed them in differing amounts, but having finished Undone, I think I’m ready for a little break from the bleak and violent world Slaughter has created.
The book opens with retired couple Henry and Judith Coldfield traveling to see their grandchildren in Georgia. While en route they hit a deer – or what they think is a deer until they get out of the car and see the naked woman covered with blood lying in the road.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Will Trent and Faith Mitchell happen to be in the hospital when the woman is brought in. Faith passed out in the parking lot while on duty and she is receiving the bad news from ER doc Sara Linton that her early pregnancy is complicated by emerging diabetes. Neither diagnosis is an asset in her line of work. Sara Linton’s attention goes immediately to the mystery victim when she arrives bloody and unconscious at the ER. What is immediately obvious to Sara is that this woman’s injuries aren’t just from the car accident. Someone has tortured her in unspeakable ways for the last week or more.
Seeing the woman’s condition, Will is determined to gain this case for the GBI, and so he heads to the scene of the accident which is on the edge of a wooded area. The local police vehemently deny him access, but he goes off exploring – and discovers an underground cave full of torture devices and a dead woman hanging from a tree.
From the standpoint of the writing, this novel is excellent. The plotting is well done, and the pacing is good. I did not guess the killer. Slaughter keeps you reading and holds your attention both with the details of the crimes committed and with the details of her complex protagonists’ personal lives. Will, Faith, and Sara are all rounded characters and mostly sympathetic, although Sara’s internal monologue was stuck on the grief track (her husband, an important character in Slaughter’s Grant County series was killed in the previous book) and Faith was the most heinous bitch to everyone she encountered throughout the book due to her fluctuating hormones and sugar levels. When I say this, I do not mean she was crabby or had PMS. She was on a permanent screeching tear from page 1 to page 448.
Faith’s disposition relates to my major objection with the book, which is that is that except for Will and Sara and a rare witness or suspect, every other character on parade here is a complete waste of oxygen. Murderers, adulterers, pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts, cops – good guys, bad guys, whatever. They’re all assholes. Even the victims. The milk of human kindness is apparently running very thin in Atlanta, Georgia. Everyone is out for Number 1 and ready to slit the throat of anyone else who might interfere. It’s not unexpected to run into mean people in crime fiction, but if this is representative of humanity, we are overdue for a new plague, people. Long overdue.
I found this most disturbing when the characters were mothers of young children, as several of them were or were expecting to be. Faith’s pregnancy was also distressing given that she has a demanding, dangerous job that requires her to work long, often erratic hours. The father is not in the picture, her support system seems pretty skeletal, and she is dealing with serious health complications. None of this would indicate that now is a good time for her to bring a child into the world, and I wished this subplot had not been included.
Oh, and while I’m wishing: Angie Polaski can die already. Will deserves a shot at some normal happiness in his life, and his wife is a brick wall of misery surrounding his damaged soul.
Whether you would like Undone depends on whether you can stomach graphic violence against women, vice in general, and a bitchy main character. The story underneath is solid, but…well, I’ll trust you to make the call.