Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter


#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.

* * * * *



The Couple Next Door


You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

—                         —                         —

Shari Lapena has been the bestselling author behind a couple of book club heavy hitters the last couple of years. Her book The Couple Next Door remains popular in my library and has received mostly rave reviews.

It is a crime thriller. A baby is abducted from her crib with no apparent evidence or motive. The parents are desperate to find her but police aren’t so sure that they are innocent.

The Couple Next Door is told from several different perspectives, but most of the chapters are from Anne (Mum), Marco (Dad), or the detectives’ points of view. This story is engrossing, and super easy to read. The language is simple but every character has multiple issues you have to work through, layers to peel back, while the reader tries to figure out who is behind Cora’s kidnapping.

Although abducting an infant is a heinous crime, there is little violence in the book and none of it is graphic. I wouldn’t consider The Couple Next Door to be a particularly dark book and several friends with young children were able to enjoy the book as well.

I loved this book until the very end. The only part I didn’t like was the final bit, after the arrest (or arrests), but I can’t elaborate without giving away an important plot point. You’ll just have to trust me that you’ll know it when you read it.

The narrator of this audiobook has a pleasant voice that was very easy to listen to. I would definitely be interested in other books she has read.

* * * * *


The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)

The Girl on the Train

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

—                         —                         —

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been one of the hottest book club picks around for a couple of years now. It is a thriller written from the points of view of three complicated, troubled women: Anna, Megan, and Rachel (the main character).

I picked this book to read because it has been so popular for such a long time, and I like to keep at least sorta-up on to date on these types of books, considering that I work as a library clerk. It makes it easier to chat with customers about different types of books, and make recommendations if I am well-read in more genres that just my favourite one or two. And lately, I’ve just been in a bit of a book rut so it was time to read a few outside of romance / erotica!

I liked the pacing of The Girl on the Train. It is an easy read that I got through in two sittings. I felt that the outcome of the novel was hidden for most of the novel, although I did suspect the killer’s identity several chapters before Rachel did.

One of things that I appreciated was the author’s decision to not make any particular characters the “good guys”. Every single character from the Rachel to the police officers and the “red-haired man in the train station” were flawed people, everyone with something to hide, to prove, to overcome. It helped the story to stay grounded in my opinion and stopped me from assuming the character’s POV as my own. I didn’t particularly cheer for any one or root against the other.

Overall, I did find this book to be entertaining but I am not sure why it received as much attention as it did. I can definitely name several books along this line that I would recommend much more strongly to another reader, The House Between Tides for one. This story was good, I just didn’t find it to be particularly memorable.

* * * *