Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Fallen" by Karin Slaughter

Faith Mitchell is returning to her mother's house from on overlong seminar. She finds her baby, whom her mother was looking after, locked in the shed. Inside is one man already dead, plus two more still-alive intruders. She manages to shoot dead the two intruders without much trouble - but her mother is nowhere to be found. As the investigation gets underway, Faith is suspended without pay and her partner Will Trent takes over - with heavy guidance and interference from his boss Amanda Wagner.

Faith's mother Evelyn Mitchell retired from the police force under a cloud of suspicion when her drug force task members all eventually went to prison for corruption. It happened to be an investigation that Will himself headed, and he is fairly certain that, while her retirement prevented any prosecution, she still had plenty to hide. Could something from that investigation be coming back to haunt Evelyn and her family? As a drug turf war erupts (yawn), Will's relationship with Dr. Sara Linton turns romantic as she repeatedly helps out in the investigation.

All the elements that I picked apart in "Broken" seem to be reversed here, and I couldn't be happier. Slaughter has delivered a twisty, exciting thriller that recalls some of her best work. I was of the belief that Sara would spend this novel still pining over her dead husband, but Slaughter has actually moved her forward to the point where she's actually pursuing a relationship with Will. Even though "Broken" hardly pointed towards a believable union between the two, the author does a pretty commendable job of selling the concept. Maybe I was just really relieved that Sara had stopped being a blubbering pain in the ass. She actually has a purpose in being in this book, both with the romantic subplot and the medical assistance she provides the other characters. And there's no sight of Lena Adams to be found!

Unfortunately, Slaughter has seen fit to replace Lena with Angie Polaski (or Angie Trent), Will's flighty and seemingly mentally unstable wife, who leaves him for months on end and basically treats him like shit. Their past was explored in "Triptych", in which Angie was a damaged but still likeable character, and the main female protagonist. Transforming her into a deranged banshee for the sake of providing a hurdle in Will and Sara's relationship is lazy, and doesn't really gel with the melding of Slaughter's two series. If you're going to carry characters over, at least make it consistent.

Otherwise, "Fallen" is a real return to form for Slaughter, with a very noticeable shift away from drudging forensic and police procedural detail towards plot development and more action-oriented pacing. I was never bored, despite really not being a fan of drug turf warfare plots (which this involves a lot of). It's to Slaughter's credit that she can still generate tension from this scenario, as well as continually shifting the direction of the plot. I enjoyed reading this book, and hope that the next one can continue her tradition of (usually) quality output.

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