Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Genesis" by Karin Slaughter

Along with Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Gardner, Karin Slaughter's books are ones I always look out for each year. The interesting thing about it is that her books are both very good - and very exasperating. Most of them follow the lives of medical examiner Sara Linton, her husband police chief Jeffrey Tolliver and his deputy, Lena Adams. In the first novel, "Blindsighted", Sara is still trying to forgive Jeffrey for cheating on her. Other events that transpire involve Lena suffering a brutal rape. The novels that followed explored Lena's psyche after such an ordeal, as well as Sara and Jeffrey's relationship. Most of the books have been of a very high level, with twisty plots, psychological depth and strong characterisation. The exasperating part - the series achieved a state of equilibrium. No matter how much personal growth Lena would go through in one book, by the next one she was the same, bitter rape survivor. Similarly, no matter what sort of new level of trust Sara and Jeffrey would achieve in their relationship in one book, by the next one they were back to bickering and being distrustful. Slaughter admitted just as much on her website when apologising to her readers for killing off Jeffrey in "Skin Privilege", the sixth book featuring the characters.

"Genesis" brings back Sara Linton, three-and-a-half years after Jeffrey's death. But she's really only a side character, as the focus is on detectives Will Trent and Faith Mitchell from "Fractured", Slaughter's last novel. The action this time around involves a naked woman being hit by a car. After being taken to hospital, it's apparent she's escaped from a madman who had been holding her prisoner and torturing her. Clues eventually lead to the underground cave she escaped from, as well as the dead body of a woman who was being held captive at the same time. When another woman disappears, leaving behind her young son, Will and Faith must figure out if the case is related (we the reader know that it is), whilst dealing with evasive witnesses, lying witnesses and their own myriad personal demons.

Slaughter is one of those authors who does their research and likes their novels to be accurate. Whilst never boring, this tale is a little long in the tooth. While I'm certain an investigation is laborious and getting lab results do take time, a little poetic licence to move things along won't make me take the novel any less seriously. This one is over 430 pages in a small font. Luckily, the plot here is a real ripper. Whilst "Skin Privilege" and "Fractured" were quite disappointing, "Genesis" makes up for that with its shocking crimes and frequent plot twists. For me, it was a lot like an episode of "SVU", which is always a good thing. Whilst I spotted the madman the moment they were introduced, getting there was still an absorbing, consuming experience and definitely one of Slaughter's best.

And because it was so good, I was able to forgive the book's one major flaw: Sara Linton herself. She didn't serve much purporse in being here. Each time a chapter is devoted to her, the narrative grinds to a complete stop whilst she pines endlessly for Jeffrey. Seriously, it's ALL she does. And considering that, in all the previous novels, she spent most of her time hating him, all her ruminations about him being a wonderful man and the love of her life and that she'll never get over him (etc etc) don't really come across as believable. To be honest, I thought Jeffrey was a bit of an ass, and was glad when he got offed at the end of "Skin Privilege". Whilst I would have preferred that Lena Adams - the most annoying character ever in fiction (though my mum would tell you that honour would go to Robin Castagna in the Alex Delaware series by Jonathan Kellerman) - was the one who died, at least she was nowhere to be seen in "Genesis", probably another reason why it was so good. If you're a fan of Slaughter, check it out. And it's probably a good place to start for first-time readers too.


  1. Christ, Robin Castagna, what a major pain. Kellerman's got another Alex Delaware book coming out next month (I think). I live in hope that the silly bitch will finally be beaten to death with one of her hand-made guitars. I've just finished reading Ghost by Robert Harrison. Brilliant. I must find more of his books.

  2. PS: I might give Genesis a go too. Sounds good. (My word verification thingy on the last comment was the best yet: ovanonfu.)