Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter

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#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.

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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.

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The Good Daughter (Karin Slaughter)

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Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…

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The Good Daughter is the most recent crime thriller that I have listened to during this kick that I am on. And it was EXCELLENT.

It was the first time that I have picked up a book by this author, and I have to say that her stories are detailed with deep backstories for each character and a ton of depth. Every character had different facets of their personality, and each had at least one redeeming quality, or character flaw.

I started this book thinking that it was mostly about the school shooting and Charlie representing Kelly, trying to get her off the murder charge, but this storyline only serves to bring the Quinn family back together after nearly twenty years. The Good Daughter opens with the tragic events that destroyed their family 28 years ago, and flashes back and forth between that night and the present. The story is also told from both of the daughters’ perspectives.

I felt that the pacing to the story was timely and finished this book in four days. I did predict the ending and unravelled several points in regards to the past and the school shooting very early in the book but I didn’t find that this took away from my enjoyment of the story at all. I will definitely be going back to read more books by this author!

This audiobook is very pleasant to listen to. It is read with a southern accent which changes slightly for each character, something that is really helpful, especially since the book is told from several characters’ POV.

There are graphic descriptions of violence, murder and sexual violence in this book. Generally, the victims are teens at the time and this may be difficult for some readers to get through.

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Songbird by AJ Adams – a review

Songbird is the second novel in the Zetas series that I have reviewed. They are about young women emerging from the hardest of lives imaginable, and men who are the ultimate baddies. Songbird is the sequel  to The Bonus.

Gorgeous model held captive behind bars

Blurb:

When cartel boss Arturo Vazquez discovers his girlfriend Gina is a DEA rat and his deputy Escamilla is staging a take-over, Arturo fixes his problems by killing everyone – except for Solitaire, Escamilla’s unwilling mistress. Solitaire is intelligent, tough, and shares Arturo’s interest in BDSM. Arturo falls head over heels but someone is leaking information – and the evidence point at Solitaire.

Songbird is a complete and self standing novel. Warning: This book contains explicit scenes of dubious consent, graphic violence and sex.

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I am impressed with how Adams was able to redeem Arturo after his actions in the first book. Talking so cavalierly about the murder of a four year old child to further business, and his ordering of Chloe’s torture at the beginning of The Bonus, made me feel like there was no way Arturo could possibly be a protagonist in his own novel.

I was wrong.

I liked how he took a chance on Solitaire. He could have easily killed her or ordered Kyle to, and not dealt with the hassle and risk of letting her out of that house alive. I think Kyle’s (admittedly limited) morals have rubbed off on good old Arturo a bit!

This book was great because it wasn’t just a repeat of the first novel. Although Solitaire and Chloe both have some serious mental issues to deal with following their pasts, they have very different personalities and coping mechanisms, which keeps the material interesting.

There was a lot more mystery and subterfuge in Songbird, compared to the first book where it felt like the reader just watched events unfold.

One thing that I didn’t like though, is that it was obvious (to me at least) who “Songbird” was from the get-go. The mystery sections of the novel should definitely have been written better.

I also would have preferred to see Solitaire have some problems adapting to her new life in Mexico! She just seemed to soar into this whole new world like it was nothing new, and that is unrealistic. She doesn’t have to struggle pathetically the whole way through, but it just seemed all a little too easy.

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My favourite scene by far was Kyle’s interrogation of Solitaire in the hotel. Going into that scene, knowing his usual methods of interrogation, I had chills! I wish that the book had of stayed like that all the way through.

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