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Sunday, June 23, 2019

'The Last Widow' Will Trent #9 by Karin Slaughter


From the BLURB:

The routine of a family shopping trip is shattered when Michelle Spivey is snatched as she leaves the mall with her young daughter. The police search for her, her partner pleads for her release, but it's as if she disappeared into thin air.

A month later, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, medical examiner Sara Linton is at lunch with her boyfriend Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But the serenity of the summer's day is broken by the wail of sirens.

Sara and Will are trained to run towards an emergency, not away from it. But on this one terrible day that instinct betrays them. Within hours the situation has spiralled out of control. And the fallout will lead them into the Appalachian mountains, to the terrible truth about really happened to Michelle, and to a remote compound where a radical group has murder in mind ...

‘The Last Widow’ is the ninth book in Karin Slaughter’s ongoing crime-thriller series, ‘Will Trent’.

It has been three years since we got a new ‘Will Trent’ instalment – and truth be told, last book ‘The Kept Woman’ didn’t quite tide me over satisfactorily. It read like a filler-book in the series, with little progress or advancement for the characters and their relationships – which is the whole reason I keep coming back to Slaughter, for the relationship of Will Trent and ‘Grant County’ expat, Sara Linton.

Well, I am happy to report that ‘The Last Widow’ left me a lot more satisfied – but also built my hunger and renewed my interest in this series overall, to the point where I know that I’m going to be painfully desperate for the tenth book  – which will probably be another three years coming!

Slaughter is very clever in how she sets up the parameters of this story – which hinges on an upcoming catastrophic event that none of our players know precisely what it is, only that it’s coming. There’s a countdown that the timeline hinges on, and from the get-go Slaughter uses it to set up the personal fractions and factions within the series world too.

We see a small window of time from both Sara and Will’s perspectives – the calm before the story – as they respectively deal with nuances in their relationship within an ordinary day. What’s brilliant is that we get the internals from both of them and see the same scene play out from both their perspectives – to realise that Will and Sara are currently out-of-step in their relationship, without even realising it. This is characterisation minutiae, and it’s Slaughter at her absolute best – because these small details will echo throughout the book, until they become loud as church-bells by the end.

From there, the book picks up a frenetic pace and a chilling whodunit – the crux of which I don’t want to give too much away, because it’s a great premise and plot for the entire book. You’d think a storyline like this when Will and Sara are on rocky ground, would further fracture them for readers but it actually does the opposite – solidifying their relationship, and what’s to come in the series.

I’ll only say that ‘The Last Widow’ is a book of the times. Slaughter has done her research – as always – but in doing so she’s looked into the dark-heart of the current American political and social climate, and it’s nor pretty. This book deals with Neo-Nazi’s, domestic terrorism and homebred militia. It’s honestly one of the most frightening scenarios and back-stories Slaughter has hit on in recently memory, for the very fact that it feels uncomfortable contemporary;

From what Faith could tell, most of the men were just looking for a reason to camp out, get away from their wives, and pretend they were more important than their actual lives as accountants or used car salesman would indicate. The more dangerous factions were steeped in the theories of the Posse Comitatus, who believed that the government should be violently overthrown and returned to white Christian men.
Apparently, they lacked access to photographs of the majority of the United States Congress, the president, the cabinet, and most of the judges packed onto state and federal courts.

Amidst all this are Sara and Will, caught up in these factions with far-right extremists – though I won’t say how. I will however, say that what Slaughter illuminates on the true-background of such groups is terrifying. And it essentially boils down to; war breeds home-grown terrorists. There is a direct correlation, in fact, between white nationalist domestic terrorists and those with US military-backgrounds; men who come home from war feeling disenfranchised, broken, and discarded by their government – who have seen up close how grassroots terrorist organisations work from their fighting abroad, then apply those “lessons” to their own disillusionment and anger. And the fact that the US Government knows about this correlation – a comprehensive report was gathered in 2009, but “conservative politicians and media outlets jumped on the report,” the backlash was so severe DHS publicly apologized for the report and dismantled the team responsible for tracking far-right threats.

This is the breeding ground for bad-guys in ‘The Last Widow’, and it sees Sara go toe-to-toe with a Neo-Nazi militiaman;

She asked, “You ever notice how George Clooney never goes around telling people how handsome he is?”
Dash raised his eyebrows, expectant.
“It makes me curious – if you’re really a patriot, do you have to put it in your name?”
Dash chuckled, shaking his head. “I wonder, Dr. Earnshaw, if I was a writer, how would I descrive you in a book?”
Sara had read books by men like Dash. He would list the colour of her hair, the size of her breasts and the shape of her ass.

There are so many little asides throughout this book, when Slaughter absolutely goes to town on the likes of khaki-clad Charlottesville Nazis, and media pundits who think racism should be given parity. It’s delicious, sinister, sometimes overwhelming but so very accurate as to be remarkable. This is Slaughter at the top of her game – taking the real world and distorting it with just enough truth to make the crime-thriller notes that most more astute.

‘The Last Widow’ was an absolute thrill from beginning to end – but the characterisations within are also bang on, and the best they’ve been in the ‘Will Trent’ series for a while now (certainly since Sara and Will solidified their romantic relationship.)

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This is Karin Slaughter at her very best, and I just want more.

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