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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

'Fallen' Will Trent/Atlanta #3 by Karin Slaughter

From the BLURB:

There’s no police training stronger than a cop’s instinct. Faith Mitchell’s mother isn’t answering her phone. Her front door is open. There’s a bloodstain above the knob. Her infant daughter is hidden in a shed behind the house. All that the Georgia Bureau of Investigations taught Faith Mitchell goes out the window when she charges into her mother’s house, gun drawn. She sees a man dead in the laundry room. She sees a hostage situation in the bedroom. What she doesn’t see is her mother. . . .

When the hostage situation turns deadly, Faith is left with too many questions, not enough answers. To find her mother, she’ll need the help of her partner, Will Trent, and they’ll both need the help of trauma doctor Sara Linton. But Faith isn’t just a cop anymore—she’s a witness. She’s also a suspect.

The thin blue line hides police corruption, bribery, even murder. Faith will have to go up against the people she respects the most in order to find her mother and bring the truth to light—or bury it forever.

** Contains SPOILERS of previous books in the ‘Grant County’ and 'Will Trent/Atlanta' series **

Faith Mitchell returns home one day to every police officer’s worst nightmare. A bloody handprint on the door. The sound of her screaming baby. A dead man in the laundry and no sign of her babysitting mother, but every sign of a violent struggle.

Evelyn Mitchell has been kidnapped, and as a highly-decorated police officer who once worked a dirty narcotics squad, the possibilities for her kidnappers are endless.

A police officer is missing – not just any officer, but one of Atlanta’s first female policewomen to rise in the ranks and retire with the respect of her colleagues and medals to decorate her lapel. Her kidnapping pulls in all the big guns – including Deputy Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) and one of Evelyn’s best friends, Amanda Wagner. Also on the case is Faith’s partner, Will Trent. But Will’s loyalties are torn in two – on the one hand he would take a bullet for his partner. But Will was also in charge of the investigation which looked into Evelyn Mitchell’s possible involvement in a scamming narcotics squad which saw him put her entire team behind bars – while Evelyn retired from the force, and never went to trial. Will’s old investigation could hold the key to Evelyn’s kidnapping . . . but neither Amanda nor Faith is willing to believe the worst of her.

Faith Mitchell is having a mini-breakdown in the wake of her mother’s kidnapping. Will Trent is trying to conduct an old investigation into Evelyn’s nefarious police work. Dead bodies of Atlanta gang members are turning up everywhere, and leaving a trail that leads right back to Evelyn’s past . . . and Sara Linton has stepped back into Will’s life, as a civilian consultant on the case, perhaps his only ally in the investigation into one of Atlanta’s most beloved cops.

‘Fallen’ is the third book in Karin Slaughter’s ‘Will Trent/Atlanta’ series.

I love Karin Slaughter. I devoured her ‘Grant County’ books, and it remains the only crime fiction series I read devoutly. I have tried my hand at other murder mysteries, but I can never seem to find that perfect Slaughter-balance of interesting police investigation and human drama. Her books are page-turners for the mystery element in each, and the central investigation that propels the story and chills the spine . . . but I keep coming back to Slaughter because of her characters. From the first moment I read Grant County coroner and paediatrician Sara Linton spar with her cheating ex-husband and police chief, Jeffrey Tolliver, I was hooked. Slaughter’s characters are messy and real, weaving complicated lies and inevitable heartbreak into their lives and relationships – making for fascinating, vicarious reading. So I, like many other fans, was devastated when Slaughter lived up to her name and severed the ‘Grant County’ series with the death of a beloved main character . . .

Thus, Slaughter’s new ‘Will Trent’ and ‘Georgia’ series have become her main attraction . . . even more so when Sara Linton crossed-over to become a main character (and possible love interest) for Will.

I have to admit, I was a reluctant reader of ‘Triptych’ through to ‘Genesis’. I was still in denial regarding Jeffrey’s death, and found no enjoyment from the battering Slaughter put Sara (and readers) through in the wake of his death. However, I started to perk-up by the second ‘Will Trent/Atlanta’ book, ‘Broken’ – when it looked as though Sara would get her chance at happiness in the form of Will Trent.

Will is a complicated, brilliant but broken young man. He was an orphan, raised by the state with occasionally disastrous bursts in foster care. While in state care he met and fell in love with a fellow damaged soul called Angie – a girl who was so sexually abused that she has grown into a spiteful woman who uses sex as a weapon, especially against her poor husband Will. He is also dyslexic, and thoroughly ashamed of the fact. Will’s body is riddled with foster-care war-wounds, some even self-inflicted. But for all of his tragic past, Will is an accomplished investigator – quietly intelligent and humble, loyal to a fault and charmingly gentle. It was clear from his first meeting with Sara Linton that these two needed each other.

I was happy to get back into Slaughter’s series once it became obvious that she intended Will for Sara. I needed that romantic balm in a series that had quickly become a gut-churning emotional wreckage. So I was really looking forward to ‘Fallen’ – the third book which would surely unite these two lost souls.

I do love the emotional, character-driven element of Slaughter’s books. But in ‘Fallen’ it was the murder mystery that really dragged me in. This book has so many layers – on the surface it’s all about Evelyn Mitchell’s kidnapping – but as Will delves into her past, Slaughter’s book veers off into many different and fascinating directions. She takes a particular interest in the women of the force in the 1970’s, as Will investigates Evelyn and Amanda’s lustrous careers. Slaughter looks at the gender imbalance and how these feminist pioneers overcame sexism in the force.

“. . . The Atlanta you know today was fought for by the women in those classes. Black officers weren’t even authorized to arrest whites until ’62. They didn’t have a precinct building. They had to hang out at the Butler Street YMCA until someone thought to call them. And it was even worse if you were a woman – two strikes, with the third hanging over your head.” Her voice took on a solemn tone. “Every single day was a struggle to do right when everything around you was wrong.”
“Sound like you and Evelyn went through a trial by fire.”
“You have no idea.”

This novel also takes a disturbing look at the powerhouses of the jail system. As gang deaths litter the Atlanta streets, Will and Amanda speak with various imprisoned criminals to get their take on the gang upheavals. This is chilling, particularly for the grains of truth that Slaughter slips in. Though these men are behind bars, they are still connected to the outside criminal world. In some cases, they still have a hand in running it. This thought is crystallized in Will’s flippant factoid that when a recent prison riot went down, the New York Times was inundated with calls from inmates, from their illegal mobile phones, explaining their list of demands for the prison warden. This is the state of the penal system in which criminals aren’t really taught a lesson, but given new avenues to misconduct. But Slaughter also looks at the harsher reality of imprisonment – particularly when Will and Amanda meet death-row inmates.

The investigation really suckered me into ‘Fallen’, partly because the character element which Slaughter usually excels in fell a bit by the wayside . . . Sara Linton felt like an afterthought. She’s conveniently in the right place at the right time to offer a helping hand in the investigation. Amanda, Will and Faith all use Sara as a sounding-board for their theories; which felt a little far-fetched and clumsily convenient once again. I understand that Slaughter wants to integrate Sara into the ‘Will Trent/Atlanta’ series – and I really, really want her there. But I needed a bit more believability in her presence.

That being said, I do love Sara and Will. They are the reason I will be eagerly anticipating the fourth ‘Will Trent/Atlanta’ book in 2012. Sara and Will’s tentative romance will be the reason I scour chat boards for spoilers and the balm I needed in the wake of Jeffrey’s senseless (but brilliantly written) death.


1 comment:

  1. i echo all the above, I could not understand the senceless killing of Jeffrey, And to be honest i have never re-read any of the series again.. I was tentitive with this new direction and enjoyed the sensitive way in which she allowed Sarah to come into her own.. I so love Will and had to re-read that last chapter in Fallen... Please do not kill anyone else off, there are better ways to write out a charactor


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