Monday, July 23, 2012
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 neighborhoods. 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.
A masterpiece of character, atmosphere, and riveting suspense, Criminal is the most powerful and moving novel yet from one of our most gifted storytellers at work today. -- Delacorte
This review is something new for me -- it's a "combination review" for CRIMINAL by Karin Slaughter. This is the very first book where I read the physical hardcover and listened to some of the audio as well. I think I picked a great book to try this new way of reading for me because CRIMINAL was superb -- in both formats.
CRIMINAL is a pretty complex story, and as a result, I'm having a hard time summing up the novel in just a few sentences -- you're probably better off reading the publisher's summary above. For those of you familiar with Ms. Slaughter's books, CRIMINAL is another book in the Will Trent series. Since I loved this book and the characters so much, I'm now dying to go back and read the entire series!
Will Trent is a great investigator whose childhood is a bit of a mystery. In fact, Will himself is a bit of a mystery. He is currently working for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, married to Angie a fellow officer that he's known almost his entire life, and in love with a pediatrician named Sara; however, he's very secretive about his past. I thought he was an incredibly interesting guy and was dying to learn more about him!
In CRIMINAL, Will's father, a convicted murderer, is now out of jail; and a young college girl goes missing. Will's pretty sure that the crime is too similar to his father's past to be a coincidence. When Will's boss Amanda Wagner decides to keep him from working on the missing girl case, he becomes extremely curious about her motives. As Will and Amanda each work towards solving this crime, they are both reminded of many painful experiences from their pasts. It's a amazing story of murder, intrigue, racism, and deception; and I was riveted to the story.
CRIMINAL takes place in present day Atlanta, but it also has many flashbacks to almost forty years earlier when Amanda was a young pup in the police force. While I enjoyed the present-day parts about Will and his struggles to come to terms with his past and his future (as well as the case of the missing college girl), I absolutely adored the flashback scenes which told the story of Amanda and her friend Evelyn and their first real case. Ms. Slaughter brought to life the Atlanta police department in the 1970s when women and blacks were definitely treated as inferiors; and she did an amazing job with her descriptions and stories. It was evident to me that she did a huge amount of research on the subject matter. (Note: The author has a great website with additional content on Atlanta during the 1970s.)
I can't rave enough about what a remarkable storyteller Karin Slaughter is. It's been awhile since I've read one of her books and I'm not sure I realized just how special she is. I mentioned earlier that CRIMINAL is a complex mystery story, one with lots of twists and turns, but it's also a well-written novel. By that I mean the setting was fully brought to life and the characters were extremely well developed. I have such a huge appreciation for the complexity of Will Trent and Amanda Wagner, but I also liked how she brought to life many of the secondary characters as well. Will's wife Angie was a piece of work (but fascinating in her own right) and I liked Evelyn with her difficulties balancing a family and a career in the early years of "equal rights." Amanda's father was another interesting one and definitely represented the good ole boy network, and I could go on and on about the mental state (and motivations) of Will's father. All of these characters gave me some things to ponder, and I think that says a lot about the quality of their development.
CRIMINAL isn't for the faint of heart, but I mean that in the very best of ways. This novel has describes in gory details the actions of a very twisted and demented man, and I dare you to find a reader that isn't a bit freaked out by this monster. However, this story also shows the extent individuals will go to protect their loved ones... so in that way, it was a heartwarming story as well. CRIMINAL most definitely played with my mind and my emotions and I was deeply affected by the characters and their stories.
The audio version of CRIMINAL was read by Kathleen Early and I thought she did a fine job. I don't know if I was blown away by her performance, but it was consistently good; and I wouldn't hesitate to listen to another book narrated by her. I have to admit that I was initially surprised by her even tone and pitch, but I quickly became used to her voice and it became one with the characters in my mind.
Obviously, I am a big fan of CRIMINAL and I do think it would make an outstanding book club selection. My group rarely (if ever) reads thrillers/suspense novels, but I'm almost certain we would agree that this is a wonderful book with many things to discuss. There is a reading guide available which has nine interesting questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include the roles of women, misogyny, parenthood, race relations, honestly, self acceptance, discrimination, ethics, and protecting those we love.
Overall, I highly recommend CRIMINAL in either the audio or print format -- you really can't go wrong with either version. I thought this novel was full of drama and suspense, and I highly appreciated the character development. Karin Slaughter has once again outdone herself with this book!
Thanks to AuthorsOnTheWeb for providing a copy of this novel and to AudioGo for providing an audio copy.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.
Giveaway alert: Thanks to AuthorsOnTheWeb, I have copies of the hardcover edition of CRIMINAL to share with two lucky readers. To enter, just fill out the form below before July 29th at 11:59 p.m. ET. I will randomly select and notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada addresses only. Good luck!