About two years ago, I read my first Karin Slaughter book titled "Undone", a continuation of two series that merged somewhere along the line. Being an avid fan of mystery thrillers, I enjoyed this book. While it was a little heavy on the body parts, violence and shock value, I turned the last page vowing to read more from this series. Well, of course, here I sit two years later having done no such thing. Coming to my rescue was Jill Ovren at AudioGo, who offered not just a copy of the ARC of "Fallen", Karin's latest in the series, but one on audiobook. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.
Synopsis: The focus of this installment of the series is Faith Mitchell, Will Trent's partner. Upon arriving at her mother's house late one day to pick up her infant daughter, Faith finds a horrific scene: blood everywhere, a dead man in the kitchen, the baby hidden in the backyard shed, her mother missing, and gangsters wielding guns. Faith takes the situation into her own hands and she kills the intruders, but their identities raise more questions than answers. What were they after? Did it have anything to do with Faith's mother's questionable connections to the drug trade when she was in the police force before she suddenly "retired"? And where was her mother now?
Will and his ball-buster boss Amanda intend to get some answers, but chasing down leads only leaves a trail of dead bodies and dead ends. Underlying every issue is the quandary: Was Evelyn Mitchell a dirty cop and is the past coming back to haunt her, or is there something else completely different at work here?
From the personal angle, we meet back up with Dr. Sara Linton, the compassionate widow with whom Will Trent has found some chemistry. Will not only struggles with his feeling of inadequacy because of his dyslexia, but also of a childhood spent in foster homes, and a mostly-absent, vindictive wife who refuses to let him go. We can only stand by and champion the development of a relationship that can conquer all of these obstacles.
At the heart of this mind-bender is the theme, a popular one with Slaughter, of the strong female spirit. Of Evelyn and Amanda, both pioneers for women in the police force, Faith Mitchell who is not only a respected police officer but a single parent and a diabetic, and Sara Linton, physician and survivor of a broken heart.
My thoughts: My initial reaction to my second experience with Karin Slaughter was surprise. While there were certain consistent elements between "Undone" and "Fallen" (the most obvious being the best kind of girl power), they were also very different. This novel was much less of a bloody murder mystery, and more of a intellectual thriller. I went into it feeling cocky, and figured I knew what was going on, but I really had no idea. And I like that. The twists were respectable, and the plot was complicated.
But too much complication can get frustrating. To take the edge off, Slaughter throws us some really rewarding romance between Will and Sara. These are two sympathetic, likable characters that really NEED to get together. While they don't ride off into the sunset in this installment, we get enough to whet our whistle and come back for more next time.
With every crime thriller, I ask myself the same standard question. What makes this novel or series stand out above the rest? God knows there are so many of them that are forgotten in a week or two. I believe where Slaughter shines is in her very realistic portrayal of strong female characters. These ladies aren't perfect, but they try their best, refusing to be left behind in a man's world. They hide their tears and their weaknesses, go cry in a bathroom if they have to, then come out and kick butt. That is a credo in which I am willing to invest.
A word about the audio production: The narrator for this audio was Shannon Cochran, a new voice for me. Initially, she started out a little too brusque for me, but as time passed, I appreciated that her vocal personality was a match for some of the strong female characters in the book.
Giveaway: AudioGo has been generous enough to offer five copies of this audio for giveaway. Simply indicate in the comments that you are interested, leave me your e-mail, and I will pick five winners next Tuesday, July 12th.
4 out of 5 stars