Karin Slaughter has got to be one of the most accomplished crime and mystery writers, and her latest novel, Criminal, clearly demonstrates her skills and abilities. It’s not quite the run of the mill Slaughter offering – and I mean that in a good way.
If you’ve read Slaughter’s books over the years, you’ll be familiar with GBI agent Will Trent. He’s the hero of a number of Slaughter’s mystery thrillers, and she’s slowly revealed dribs and drabs about his past – his difficult childhood in an orphanage, his dyslexia, and his troubled marriage to one of his fellow orphans. In Criminal, everything you ever wanted to know about Trent is revealed – to us, and to his new lover, pediatrician and sometimes Medical Examiner Sara Linton.
But it’s not Will’s story that most grabbed my attention. In a series of flashbacks to 1970s Atlanta that integrates seamlessly into what’s happening in the present, Slaughter tells the tale of Will’s (seemingly) hard-hearted boss Amanda Wager as she battled her way up the ranks in the Atlanta Police Department. Slaughter’s rendering of women working to prove themselves in a male-dominated field, in a time of sexual discrimination (and racial prejudice) was incredibly poignant – and the book is worth reading for just that, although it offers a whole lot more.
The book’s mystery center around the disappearance of a local college student in the present day, and similar disappearances in the 1970s. These were Amanda Wagner’s first cases, and launched her career – and which also left her life inextricably linked with Will’s. Now it seems like the same perpetrator is back to his old tricks, and for some strange reason, Amanda refuses to allow Will, her best investigator, to become involved in the investigation.
Slaughter’s hard-hitting mystery book is full of suspense as always, but where she really excels, and what really elevates her work far beyond any other police procedural, is her ability to paint a picture of a city (and workplace) in the painful throes of transition. Another excellent offering from Slaughter, and highly recommended.