When the body of a young man is discovered deep beneath the icy waters of Lake Grant, a note left under a rock by the shore points to suicide. But within minutes, it becomes clear that this is no suicide. It's a brutal, cold-blooded murder. All too soon former Grant County medical examiner Sara Linton -- home for Thanksgiving after a long absence -- finds herself unwittingly drawn into the case. The chief suspect is desperate to see her, but when she arrives at the local police station she is met with a horrifying sight -- he lies dead in his cell, the words 'Not me' scrawled across the walls. Something about his confession doesn't add up and deeply suspicious of the detective in charge, Lena Adams, Sara immediately calls the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Shortly afterwards, Special Agent Will Trent is brought in from his vacation to investigate. But he is immediately confronted with a wall of silence. Grant County is a close-knit community with loyalties and ties that run deep. And the only person who can tell the truth about what really happened is dead.
I adore Karin Slaughter’s ‘Grant County’ series. It is the series I read that is most removed from my regular genre habits – it is the most ‘hard-core’ crime fiction of my reading list.
‘Broken’ is the seventh book in the series which is set in Grant County, Georgia. Original narrators were Sara Linton; local paediatrician, coroner and ex-wife to police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver, who also narrated. One of Jeffrey’s young police officers, Lena Adams, was also a central focus of the series.
One of the reasons I love these books so much, and why this is the one crime-fiction series I read religiously, is that Karin Slaughter understands what it is that brings readers back. Character. For all the fascination that each ‘whodunnit’ holds, and as sickly compelling as Slaughter’s explorations of the darker side of small-town living is, it’s ultimately the characters that keep bringing me back to this series.
With suicides, the victim is the murderer. The person upon whom the blame rests is also the person whose loss is felt most deeply. They are not around to take the recriminations for their death, the natural anger anyone feels when there is a loss. What the dead leave instead is a void that all the pain and sorrow in the world can never fill. Mother and father, sisters, brothers, friends and other relatives – all find themselves with no one to punish for their loss.And people always want to punish someone when a life is unexpectedly taken.
Karin Slaughter excels in writing fucked up characters. They’re fractured and frustrating to read – and that’s half the battle, and half the fun. Slaughter makes her readers work – she doesn’t make anything easy and the word ‘convenient’ is not in her dictionary. When we first met them in ‘Blindsighted’ Sara and Jeffrey had been divorced for several years after he cheated on her. It took them several books, but eventually they peeled back the layers, re-established trust and realized that love and forgiveness are one in the same, and life is too short to deny your feelings. Meanwhile, Lena Adams went into a downward spiral of masochism and emotional denial that built and festered over several books, reaching a crescendo in sixth book, ‘Beyond Reach’, when her reckless actions contributed to the untimely death of Jeffrey Tolliver.
The death of main character, Jeffrey, flipped the series on its axis. Fans were saddened and outraged. But after the initial jaw-dropping shock and gut-wrenching heartache, I was able to step back and appreciate Karin Slaughter’s courage in implementing such a massive shake-up to her series.
But whether or not Jeffrey’s death was a good or bad thing remains to be read. Fans weren’t terribly impressed with Slaughter’s next book after Jeffrey’s death, which featured Sara Linton in a new series called ‘Will Trent/Atlanta’ entitled ‘Genesis’. This new series had Sara crossing over with Will Trent, of Slaughter’s ‘Will Trent/Atlanta’ series, and hinted at a possible love connection between the characters.
Fans were somewhat disappointed. General consensus seemed to be that Jeffrey’s death was more of a hindrance than an inspired idea, and Will Trent didn’t adequately fit his leading man shoes. I tended to agree. I had attempted to read the ‘Will Trent/Atlanta’ series, but I couldn’t find the same level of connection to the characters that I felt with Sara and Jeffrey. But I did think that Sara and Will made a good team, and I was intrigued at a possible romance. Where I couldn’t stomach Will by himself in his own series, I liked him when he had Sara to bounce off of.
‘Broken’ is not a ‘Will Trent/Atlanta’ book – it is back in ‘Grant County’ and a wonderful addition to the series. ‘Genesis’ was set in Atlanta, and observed Sara Linton three years after Jeffrey’s death when she had removed herself from Heartsdale and seemed to repress much of her grief. It was a somewhat awkward follow-up book, mostly because (as a fan) I kept wondering about Heartsdale. I kept wondering what kind of a hole Jeffrey’s death had left in the town. I couldn’t even properly observe the impact of his death on Sara because it was hard to gauge her true emotions when she seemed so hell-bent on repressing them.
‘Broken’ is a true exploration of grief, for readers and Sara alike. It is set four years after Jeffrey’s death, and the ‘whodunnit’ concerns an internal affairs investigation into the police force Jeffrey once led.
Sara is home for thanksgiving, and is unwittingly dragged into a murder investigation when the prime suspect is found dead in his cell, having slit his wrists. Sara instantly sees holes in the case, especially concerning Lena Adams’s police procedures. Still harbouring deep resentment toward Lena for her part in Jeffrey’s death, Sara calls in a ‘police widower’s’ favour, pulling strings to get Georgia Bureau of Investigations officer, Will Trent, down from Atlanta to lead the case.
This was a fantastic book. I think the title, ‘Broken’, is somewhat ironic. Because although Sara and the town of Grant County are rather fractured at the beginning of the book, still reeling from the repercussions of Jeffrey’s absence, the whole book is really about closure and acceptance.
Being home means Sara is forced to confront her loss, and the hole in heart where Jeffrey still lingers. I cried so many times throughout this book – it is a sad read, to be sure. But it’s also a little bit cathartic, and it seems to be Slaughter putting Jeffrey to rest, once and for all. By examining those who were closest to him, and observing how they’ve dealt with his loss, loose ends are tied up and the series can now move on. By the end of ‘Broken’ I felt reassurance and excitement for the series new trajectory, which was something I didn’t feel at the end of ‘Genesis’.
I’m intrigued/frustrated by the budding romance between Sara and Will. Intrigued because it’s clear that these two need one other and I loved reading them dance around each another and their feelings. Frustrated because Slaughter is writing a *slow* coupling for these two. I mean, snail’s pace stuff. It’s understandable, because ‘Broken’ is all about Sara accepting Jeffrey’s death (4 years after the fact) – she’s not going to rush into a new relationship. But still, I’m eager for some happiness for Sara after so much sorrow.
The hardest thing to read in ‘Broken’ has been the hardest aspect of all the ‘Grant County’ books – Lena Adams. I hate her. I hate her with a fiery, molten passion. It’s like Slaughter has written a bad guy in plain sight, masquerading them as an occasional good guy. I was 100% with Sara when she went into vigilante-mode against Lena. I would love for her to get her comeuppance. I know characters are best when they are shades of gray – but with Lena it’s very black and white for me – I hate her!
There was one HUGE twist in ‘Broken’ concerning Lena that totally threw me for a loop. So disgusted and angry was I with this fictional character, that I had to put the book down and walk away (muttering to myself), to cool down before I could finish the book.
I was very satisfied with this seventh instalment to the ‘Grant County’ series. Satisfied in a way I wasn’t with ‘Genesis’ as a follow-up to the death of main character, Jeffrey Tolliver. ‘Broken’ felt like a more justifiable explanation to his death, and exploration of its repercussions. I needed this book, just as much as the characters did. I can’t wait for the 8th instalment.