3.5 stars I eagerly anticipate every single book by Karin Slaughter, and she's never let me down when it comes to Will Trent and Sara Linton--and afte...more3.5 stars I eagerly anticipate every single book by Karin Slaughter, and she's never let me down when it comes to Will Trent and Sara Linton--and after last year's fantastic Fallen, I was really excited to read her new book. Criminal is, however, my least favorite book by this author yet, and the first book in the Georgia series that I've rated less than 4 stars. After thoroughly enjoying each of the previous (12?) novels in this series, it's something of a shock to find myself with such mixed/negative feelings about this one.
The two things that normally make Karin Slaughter books so damned good are crackling, suspenseful mysteries and strong characters that you passionately care about. In Criminal, those elements are woefully obscured by the book's structure (too many POVs, many of which are too long for secondary characters), too much focus on Amanda Wagner's past (which sounded like such a great idea, except that she's much less compelling and sympathetic as a young rookie), and a serious lack of time spent on the central characters we've come to know. The starts and stops of the many, many characters POVs make for a jumbled narrative and a frustrating reading experience, and they detract from both the cleanness of the plotting and any emotional response we might've had to the characters. I'm frankly very surprised that a Slaughter book would be this messy.
Eventually, the central mystery is an interesting one, if a bit on the predictable side. The little we see of the Will/Sara/Angie dynamic continues to be fascinating. The flashback sections that took place in the 70s did provide a few good things: it was kind of neat to see Evelyn Mitchell's early career since we all know how it later turns out, a bit about Will's early beginnings, and through Amanda, it was interesting to read about how female police officers were treated back then. But the issues of discrimination, as well as so many others, were done with a much less expert hand than I'm used to seeing in Slaughter's books. Even the level and detail of the violence, which the author's been criticized for and I've never had a problem with before, seemed unnecessarily extra brutal and verging on salacious here. For the first time in reading this author's work, I felt serious twinges of distaste as I read about (view spoiler)[women being sewn to mattresses, women with their mouths and eyelids sewn shut or open, etc, etc (hide spoiler)]; it's not what happens, as I've read similar levels of violence or worse, it's the repetitive way these things are presented to us, without the appropriate subsequent gravity and care to balance it out. When I think about the awful thing that happens to Lena's sister in the very first Slaughter book, ((view spoiler)[a blind woman is savagely attacked in a public restroom, and the killer opens up a wound in her torso and rapes it while she's still conscious (hide spoiler)], and how well the author handled both the procedural and emotional effects of that, I am especially surprised at how clumsily heavy-handed this new book seems to be.
So I would just say that if you're considering reading this series, definitely don't start with this one. They should be read in order anyway (I put the order in my review of the first book, Blindsighted), and the others are much, much better. I'm still a big fan of this author's work, but for the first time, I'm going to be anticipating the next one with muted expectations. Fingers crossed she returns to her usual excellent form next year. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)