Triptych by Karin Slaughter

Another book I received thanks to Karen at Euro Crime is “Triptych”, the bestselling stand-alone book by Karin Slaughter. I have loved the five previous books by this author, a series set in Grant county, Georgia, about Sara Linton, the town coroner and a paediatrician, and Jeffrey Tolliver, chief of police and Sara’s ex-husband. The series is involving for all the usual reasons in detective stories: intriguing plots, strong sense of place in the local community concerned, tragedies in the characters’ pasts, and well-drawn recurring characters. Sara’s family’s mild disappointment that she went into medicine rather than becoming, like her father and sister, a plumber, is a nice touch. The added attraction of the series, for me, is Sara’s back-story: her own life and that of her relationship with Jeffrey. I am looking forward to the next in the series, Skin Privilege (US title)/Beyond Reach (UK title), out in July.

As much as I enjoy the Grant County series, fast-paced they are not. This is one of the surprises about Triptych, Slaughter’s new book, which is a scorcher.

I was almost, but not quite, put off from reading it after the first chapter, as my “violence porn” hackles rose quite a bit. But I persevered, and I’m glad I did. The rest of the book is a cracking thriller: the story of the long-ago brutal murder of a teenage prom-queen type; the man who was imprisoned for the crime when a 16-year-old and who is now on parole; and the police investigation of a new crime that might or might not be related to the old. The story unfolds against the context of poverty-level Atlanta: the author is masterly in her account, drawing the reader completely into the world she has constructed. The human touches are poignant, particularly the convicted man’s relationship with his mother and sister.

I can’t write more without giving too much away, but there are two cracking plot twists that will make you sit back in surprise, and another one that I guessed coming but even so, is pretty clever. I would say that the book ran out of steam slightly in the second half, when it focuses more on the female undercover cop who forms the link between the two main characters and plot strands. But that’s a minor caveat. Triptych is riding high on the bestseller charts on both sides of the Atlantic and deservedly so. A must-read for any crime fiction addict, and indeed anyone looking for the perfect summer-holiday read: you’ll want to set aside the rest of the day to finish this exciting book once you start it.

See Karin Slaughter’s website for more details about her novels.

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