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Criminal by Karin Slaughter

I'm behind on my reading, okay?  I only just finished the most recent installment in Slaughter's Will Trent series, which was released last summer.  Normally I'm all over a new release by one of the authors that I follow.  Only I haven't been reading much of anything in the past year as evidenced by the sparsity of reviews posted here on the blog.  I'm cautiously optimistic that the drought is over.  But one can never tell sometimes when it comes to these things.

On to Criminal, the most recent and most terrifying installment of the Will Trent series.  If there is one complaint I have about Criminal it's that there's not enough Will.  And his estranged wife, Angie, who gives all Angies a bad name and taints the name itself with her malicious and toxic manipulation, makes an appearance.  (Okay, that makes two complaints--I can deal with the former, but not so much with the latter; I really wish Angie would be dealt with once and for all, preferably jettisoned off into the gulf never to be seen nor heard from again, but that's just me.)

We spend the entirety of the book shifting between two time periods: mid-1970's Atlanta and the present day city as well as shifting among multiple perspectives.  1970's Atlanta is a city that is still struggling with race and gender integration and equality.  The tensions between black and white and especially between male and female as women struggle for equal standing in law enforcement and other areas of life are starkly and vividly portrayed as seen through the young police detective eyes of Amanda Wagner and Evelyn Mitchell.

The story mostly alternates between the '70's in which Amanda, fairly new to the job of Atlanta PD detective (and in the present day is Will's difficult and enigmatic boss at the GBI) and Evelyn, Amanda's APD colleague (and in the present is Will's partner, Faith's, disgraced, retired mother) struggle to piece together a puzzle they stumble upon in which they discover a string of disappeared prostitutes as well as a dead prostitute whose death is questionably ruled a suicide and whose body is misidentified as another missing hooker.  Amanda and Evelyn seem to be the only ones who care about getting the case solved the right way and potentially getting a very dangerous and terrifying serial killer off the streets.  What does all this mean?  And how does the case connect with the upper echelons of the politically connected at both city hall and the police department?

Cut to present day Atlanta: Will's in the doghouse with his boss, Amanda Wagner, for unspecified (to him) reasons, while he basks in the glow of new (non-toxic) love with Dr. Sara Linton.  Before Will can get used to this kind of happiness in his personal life, his life starts imploding when the father he never knew is released from jail just as a Georgia Tech co-ed who resembles Will's long ago murdered mother goes missing.  While Will's been able to piece some things together about his mother over the years, it soon becomes clear that the information he's received in the police file on her murder does not jive with the reality of the case and its victims that the reader sees in the flashbacks to the '70's (a fact made clear to the reader but one that Will is not privy to).

As the parallel stories unspool it's clear that both past and present cases are connected and the original case is steeped in layers upon layers of mystery, misinformation, conspiracy, willful negligence and political intrigue.  It's also clear that Amanda knows far more about Will and his origins and that of his parents than she has ever let on and that she is determined to keep those secrets no matter how much it might splinter her working relationship with Will.  But is she keeping secrets out of spite or to protect a boy doomed by the circumstances of his birth and parentage, one who grew up to thrive despite all the odds stacked against him?

I highly recommend this book--it is suspenseful, terrifying, puzzling and illuminating.  Much light is shed on the origins of Will and on Amanda's early career.  Slaughter fans will devour this book.  And anyone who loves a good mystery thriller with loads of character development will also love this--although I recommend you start at the beginning of the Grant County series and read the books through in order.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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