Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter

25574782

#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives.

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.

—                         —                         —

This is the second book that I have read from Karin Slaughter who is the mistress of crime dramas in my opinion. Although I am new to her, I have moved her to my top five favourite authors list.

My research has indicated that this author mostly writes a series, which has quite a few volumes in it. I’m not ready to embark a new series at the moment, so I am working my way through her standalones first. Pretty Girls is set in Georgia in the modern-day. It tells the story of a family that has been torn apart by tragedy and the two sisters who stumble across each other again now, nearly two decades later. At first I worried that this would be very similar to her book The Good Daughter, but this isn’t the case at all.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that the author regularly flashes back in time, to the years immediately following Julia’s disappearance. Here, we can listen to the narrator, speaking from Father’s perspective to his missing daughter, as if reading his journal. We experience how he mourns her. How he still searches for her, never giving up in his efforts, although, the same cannot be said for hope. How their child’s loss tears apart a family, a marriage, and the lack of a body denies any chance at closure.

I think this was a very emotional way to look back on the past and inform the readers of the characters’ backstories. It gives the Dad a voice, as he is deceased in the present. It also shines a light on why marriages tend to end following the loss of a child, how it tears them a part. Julia’s parents look at each other and see a father who gave his daughter rides on his shoulders, a mother who rocked her babies to sleep with a smile. Neither can look at the other parent and separate them from them from Julia.

I felt that Pretty Girls was a little slow in pace at first. This could be partially due to the fact that I would have made different choices than Lydia and Claire did as they started to investigate Paul’s actions. But the book IS nearly 700 pages as well. That is a lot of time to spend in one story. So, SO worth it though. This book kept me guessing and thoroughly engaged from start to finish. I’m already try to peddle it to friends and family because I think it is such a great book.

Ms. Slaughter is the Queen of twists and turns. Just as you think you know how the book is going to play out, there is a sharp left turn. I like books that allow me to think, to ponder different directions it could take, as long as I don’t always turn out to be right. The main thought that kept popping into my head throughout Pretty Girls was “do you really think that that was a coincidence, anymore”?

Pretty Girls is a fantastic example of domestic noir. Definitely a recommended read for anyone looking to sink their teeth into something a bit longer and darker than your typical fiction. This is one of those books that had me yelling out loud at my phone at times. It is a wild ride with graphic violence but the story is amazing.

* * * * *

xx

Advertisements

Broadchurch

Have you heard of Broadchurch? It is a British crime drama set in a small coastal town of 15,000 residents and it is the best thing since sliced bread.

I watched this show when it first aired in North America a couple of years ago, but between moving and whatnot, I entirely missed the second season and now we are on the third. To catch up I decided to re-watch the entire first season. I was curious whether it would hold up now that I know what happens, and boy did it ever!

514iREZbw1L

Miller (l) and Hardy (r)

The pilot opens with the death of 11yo Danny Latimer. His death is quickly ruled suspicious and the entire first season (8 episodes, about 50 minutes apiece) is spent tracking down his murderer.

broadchurch_series2_ep1_03

Danny was survived by his Mom (Beth), sister (Chloe) and Dad (Mark).

This is something that I love about British dramas; they don’t feel as if they have to somehow wrap it up and finish the entire mystery in one episode. They have faith that their audience can carry forward interest from week to week. American crime dramas, like Law and Order, Blue Bloods, CSI, Bones … they all seem to have to solve a murder in 40 minutes, which leaves very little time for exploring the intense nuances of emotion behind every situation, and the complicated web of lies and secrets in every person’s life. Throughout the course of Broadchurch season one, we learn (presumably) all the secrets of the Latimer family and many of the other village residents as well as the investigators, DI Hardy and DI Miller (featured in the DVD cover photo above).

Broadchurch - Specials

Miller with her family at a memorial for Danny.

There aren’t too many shows that can make you cry multiple times in the pilot episode alone! Because you explore the mystery of Danny’s death over so many episodes, and over considerably more time in tv-land, you feel as if this is actually happening. I found it easy to process the evolution of events and emotions with the characters. Just look at the emotion on Mum’s face as she realizes that the body found on the beach is her son.

broadchurch-full-series-review-beth

Police trying to drag Beth away from her son’s body.

The show covers every aspect of real life for the family. The full emotional range that each person can feel – and how each person grieves differently – is depicted over the following weeks, along with the criminal investigation, the involvement of the press and the emotional toll it takes on the police officers leading the investigation.

I expected DI Miller to be emotional because she is a long-time friend to the family and knew Danny all his life, but Hardy was a newcomer to Broadchurch. He literally arrived the night before the murder. To see the deep emotional connection that develops between himself and Beth and Mark was … inspiring? to see. I don’t think that is the right word, but it surprised me to see this relationship develop and the show would have been missing something without it. While Hardy is never going to be a friend who pops round for dinner, a bond develops over the season that I suspect will always be there. It is a deeply personal thing I suppose, to accept someone into your home in your most vulnerable moments, to bare every secret and skeleton to him while he investigates the murder of your child. You have to trust him to find the right person, and put together a strong enough case to stand up in court.

aaaa

The investigators walking with the family and other villagers in a silent vigil.

I also found it surprising to see the humanity of some of the reporters reporting on Danny’s case. The locals who were a part of the village I expected tact and common decency from, but the female reporter from the Herald also show a surprising amount of compassion. Throughout the season I kept willing the family to lock her out, not give her any time, because I didn’t trust her from the start, but she gives them good advice from the heart and is sensitive in her reporting.

broadchurch-itv-series-1-2

It would have been easy to paint her – or any number of people on the show – as evil but the creators were careful to depict each characters as regular people who are made up of good and bad, each with skeletons in his or her closet.

I love Broadchurch and so do most of my family members. It is my favourite show currently and I can’t wait to binge watch the second and third seasons. If you are remotely interested in crime shows, drama, or British tv, you need to give it a try. I could feel the emotional tugs on my heart with every episode and was often reduced to tears.

Obviously this show deals with difficult subject matter but the violence and subject matter aren’t any worse than your typical American crime drama. Actually, I think there is probably less violence. The emotionalism is partially just me, but mostly a testament to how well done this show is.

* * * * *

xx