Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review - Criminal

Karin Slaughter – Criminal
The next entry in the Will Trent / Sara Linton amalgamated series is always a must read for me. Karin has the superb ability to keep the series fresh. There is never a feel of the author going through the emotions as she puts her characters through the emotional turmoil of being attached to the police force. To say I was looking forward to this was an understatement.
The Blurb:
Will Trent is a brilliant agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Newly in love, he is beginning to put a difficult past behind him. Then a local college student goes missing, and Will is inexplicably kept off the case by his supervisor and mentor, deputy director Amanda Wagner. Will cannot fathom Amanda's motivation until the two of them literally collide in an abandoned orphanage they have both been drawn to for different reasons. Decades before - when Will's father was imprisoned for murder - this was his home. . . .

Flash back nearly forty years. In the summer Will Trent was born, Amanda Wagner is going to college, making Sunday dinners for her father, taking her first steps in the boys' club that is the Atlanta Police Department. One of her first cases is to investigate a brutal crime in one of the city's worst neighbourhoods. Amanda and her partner, Evelyn, are the only ones who seem to care if an arrest is ever made.

Now the case that launched Amanda's career has suddenly come back to life, intertwined with the long-held mystery of Will's birth and parentage. And these two dauntless investigators will each need to face down demons from the past if they are to prevent an even greater terror from being unleashed.
It would have been easy for Karin to have “Phoned this book in.” The events of her last novel meant she had the perfect opportunity to explore areas of the main character’s relationship without it being too taxing. Instead, from the outset she throws a massive spanner in the works and ruins the idyllic relationship.
The book is split into two time periods. The present day focuses on Will and how he reacts to the news of his father’s unexpected release from prison. The second focuses on the mid seventies and recalls Amanda Wagner’s early days on the force.
Will has always been a strong character. He has a good moral compass but is often the victim of his childhood and the self destructive path he chooses to endure as a result. In Criminal, the shocking news he receives allows Karin to unleash the rage in him that he has kept well contained all his life. Karin does an excellent job of portraying his fears and anger towards the monster that is his father and also his frustration at being forbidden to do anything about it.
However, this is truly Amanda’s book, as we finally get to see her backstory. Karin not only treats us to a fascinating tale but also provides an insight on how things used to be back in the police force in the seventies. The prejudice to women and black people was quite horrific as is also the widespread alcoholism amongst the force.
With this being Karin Slaughter, you know she has meticulously researched the subject matter which makes the story even more compelling.
The younger version of Amanda is recognisable as the ball busting, laconic boss we are used to seeing, however it is also nice to see her naive side. A side that is not confident and definitely not sure of her own ability. In fact it is great to see her develop towards the character we know and love, as she is determined to prove the pig headed male colleagues wrong by doing a better job than them.
The backstory consumes the majority of the narrative but the two time periods intertwine well. There is never a sense of one just informing the other for the sake of it, instead like an onion each layer of the mystery is slowly peeled away. Just when you think you have the plot figured out, Karin manages to cloudy the water.
As both stories reach their conclusion, you begin to discover just why Will and Amanda are like they are. I for one, would like to read more of Amanda in her early days, but then I say that about every character that Karin decides to focus on.
My rating 9.0

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