Received from NetGalley
Will Trent is a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent whose latest case has him posing as Bill Black, a scary ex-con who rides a motorcycle around Macon, Georgia, and trails an air of violence wherever he goes. The cover has worked and he has caught the eye of a wiry little drug dealer who thinks he might be a useful ally. But undercover and cut off from the support of the woman he loves, Sara Linton, Will finds his demons catching up with him.
Although she has no idea where Will has gone, or why, Sara herself has come to Macon because of a cop shooting: Her stepson, Jared, has been gunned down in his own home. Sara holds Lena, Jared’s wife, responsible: Lena, a detective, has been a magnet for trouble all her life, and Jared’s shooting is not the first time someone Sara loved got caught in the crossfire. Furious, Sara finds herself involved in the same case that Will is working without even knowing it, and soon danger is swirling around both of them.
*** WARNING: contains spoilers of the 'Grant County' series and previous 'Will Trent' books ***
The past is never quite done with Sara Linton. This much is true when she gets a frantic phone-call from Darnell “Nell” Long; high school girlfriend to Sara’s five-years dead husband, and mother to Jeffrey Tolliver’s estranged son, Jared. Nell has called Sara for solace and outrage – Jared has been shot in a home invasion, and is now fighting for his life. Nell believes his wife, Lena Adams, is somehow responsible and Sara’s first inclination is to agree.
Lena was Jeffrey’s partner on the Grant police force – big brother to her reckless little sister. And it was her recklessness that got Jeffrey killed in the end, of this Sara has no doubt – she also knows that Lena’s self-preservation and selfishness has stopped her from ever taking that full blame. Jared is a patrolman, but Lena heads up an elite police taskforce and Sara is certain that the break-in and attempted murder will somehow link back to Lena’s job and reckless attitude …
Georgia Bureau of Investigation officer, Will Trent, also believes Lena Adams is the most likely link between the break-in and a raid she lead, that went bust a few days ago. Will has investigated Lena in the past, over a witness who died in custody – he could make nothing stick then, but he’s half convinced that this time Lena’s true nature is going to come out.
Will heads down to Macon as part of an undercover operation investigating a mysterious (and possibly phantom) ‘Big Whitey’ ring leader that may lead back to Lena’s raid and her husband’s near-death. But Will also knows Lena’s past with his girlfriend, Sara Linton – and he knows that Sara is heading down to Macon to be by her stepson’s side. What Sara doesn’t know is that Will is undercover, investigating the woman who Sara blames for her husband’s death …
‘Unseen’ is the seventh book in Karin Slaughter’s highly-addictive ‘Will Trent’ series.
When I read the blurb of ‘Unseen’ and realized that Lena Adams would be back, I decided to do a quick skim-read of the six ‘Grant County’ books. I wanted to go back and see Slaughter plant the seed of Lena Adams back in that original series … and because Lena’s return in the ‘Will Trent’ series and Sara’s life would undoubtedly bring back the death of Jeffrey Tolliver, the late and great protagonist of Slaughter’s ‘Grant County’ series.
What struck me in re-reading was that the Lena/Sara battle, which erupted after Jeffrey’s death, and has been slowly simmering ever since, had been raging since the ‘Grant County’ series. Pretty much every conversation between Sara and Jeffrey about Lena includes Sara warning him about trying to save her or suggesting he give her enough rope to hang herself. And I remember thinking, in passing, that it was odd that Sara was constantly (often, begrudgingly) commenting on Jeffrey’s sexual prowess and indiscretions in the series; but she never framed Lena as a threat to their marriage or Jeffrey’s wandering eye. Though there was one instance when Sara herself mused that it would have been easier if Jeffrey and Lena had sexual chemistry – that’s a lot easier to dispel than the brotherly/fatherly hero complex he developed for his deputy. Lena and Sara had always been at foreshadowed loggerheads, and I think fans have been waiting for another showdown between the two since after Jeffrey’s death (which I believe rests squarely on Lena’s shoulders).
Having said all my bias, I will point out that since I started reviewing Karin Slaughter (and expressing my molten hatred of Lena Adams) many have pointed out to me that she is a beloved character to some readers who appreciate her shades of grey and ‘down-but-never-out’ attitude … Now, this baffles me because I’ve despised Lena from the first, and my hatred only increased after ‘Beyond Reach.’ I always thought Slaughter wrote Lena Adams as a ‘villain’ (and the worst kind, at that; the kind of villain who thinks they’re actually the good guy.) But having re-read ‘Grant County’ and now ‘Unseen’, I can (begrudgingly) see those shades-of-grey Lena-supporters are harping on about. Regardless, it put me in an odd position for ‘Unseen’ – I had to grit my teeth throughout all of Lena’s chapters, and my skin literally crawled when I read about her marriage to Jared, Jeffrey’s estranged child and Sara’s stepson (who bears a striking resemblance to Jeffrey). It also meant I was 100% on Sara’s side when she goes into this new Lena Adams debacle, to be by her stepson’s bedside;
Her head ached. Her muscles twitched. It was as if all the wires that held together her body had suddenly gone taut.
Or maybe it wasn’t adrenaline. Maybe it was anger, because by the time Sara walked into the hospital, she was so angry that she could barely function. No – she wasn’t just angry. She was furious.
Furious to be here. Furious that she wasn’t home taking a shower or eating breakfast or walking the dogs or sleeping in her bed or going about her normal life. Furious that yet again, she’d become ensnared in another one of Lena Adams’s deadly webs.
If the wires had gone taut, it was only because Lena had pulled them.
Though I will say I was glad that it’s not just Sara who seems to have cottoned on to Lena’s ways;
He’d spent a lifetime dealing with damaged women like Lena Adams. Their motivations were easy to read once you knew what to look for. “She’d never take a bribe. She does bad things, but she always thinks she’s doing them for the right reason.”
“Whatever.” Faith had never been a fan of nuance.
When I knew Lena Adams would be front-and-centre of this new ‘Will Trent’ book (and with such good timing, considering Sara and Will’s somewhat settled romance) I had hoped that would mean Jeffrey Tolliver’s memory would be front-and-centre too. And, he is, to an extent. But Sara is very aware that she’s with Will now, and in a far better place than right after Jeffrey died and she even attempted to take her own life. Though Jared is Nell’s son and his adopted father was Jeffrey’s best friend, Sara doesn’t want to get dragged back into the spiral of being Jeffrey’s widow … and that causes her a lot of guilt. It’s not that she doesn’t miss or still love Jeffrey, but being around the people he grew up with who aren’t yet used to seeing her a little more whole after his death, that drags her down. I completely get it; and the fact that ‘Unseen’ is shared narrative with both Will and Lena who have more to worry about than the ghost of Jeffrey Tolliver for the majority of this book … still, I’m a reading masochist and I almost wanted Sara and Slaughter to constantly pick at the wound of Jeffrey (I just miss him so much! Re-reading his death in ‘Beyond Reach’ made me blubber like a baby all over again). But there were other ways I was hoping Jeffrey’s memory would live on in this book – I was hoping for lengthy interactions between Sara and Jared, for instance.
Another reason ‘Unseen’ isn’t an ode-to-Jeffrey is that this is very much an important book for Will and Sara. There’s a big hurdle in here for them, and after they’ve already been through so much (Will’s secretive past and psychotic wife, not withstanding). This is such a gloriously important book for Will and Sara, and in terms of developing these characters and their relationship – Slaughter gets top stars. Fans will be delighted for what ‘Unseen’ means for them, and future books will be even more interesting.
It always seems that when reviewing the latest Karin Slaughter book, I harp on a lot about the relationships and not the crime crux. Look, it’s Slaughter so you know it’s going to be good – ‘Unseen’ is another of her gory and bleak dramas, that will keep you guessing and careening down the plotted path right until the last page. But, like I always say, I come back and stick by Slaughter for the characters. I love how gloriously messy and frustrating their lives are, the tangled webs of their romances and relationships. ‘Unseen’ is a stellar instalment for the fact that Slaughter has found new facets in the lives of these old characters; and given fans something to look forward to in their futures and upcoming instalments.