Thursday, May 20, 2010

a review of "Broken" [35]

Broken: A Novel (Grant County) by Karin Slaughter
(Delacorte Press, ISBN 978-0-385-34197-4)

The police of a small college town in Grant County, Georgia receive an anonymous phone call that a young college student may have killed herself and when police first find her body in the lake, it does appear to be a suicide. There is a note, her shoes at the side of the water, but on a little further investigation, Officer Lena Adams discovers that the girl had been stabbed in the back of her neck and that they are dealing with a case of murder. Along with the temporary police chief, a veteran cop whose always seems to have a smell of alcohol on his breath these days, and a third officer, they go to check out the residence of the victim and through a combination of carelessness, incompetence, and bad luck, one person ends up dead and another perhaps fatally injured. Lena realize that if she is to save her career...let alone discover the murderer..a little creative explanation may be in order. But that is nothing new for Lena.

Called in to investigate what has happened, and try to break through the Blue Wall of Silence that arises very quickly, is Special Agent Will Trent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. To add to the drama, the person who made the call for the outside investigator is Dr. Sara Linton, a woman with a history, a very checkered history, with this town and many of the people involved. She is home for a quick visit from Atlanta to see her family over Thanksgiving, but just a few years ago she lived in Grant County, was the local doctor and part time coroner and her now deceased husband was the very respected chief of police. The chief of police whose death was the fault of Officer Adams in Sara's mind. And she is determined that Lena will not get away with skirting responsibility for someone else's death.

Trent quickly realizes that the local police are covering up something, but when a second student turns up dead, a student who without question was killed with the same weapon as the first but this time in an even more horrible and bloody way, SA Trent has his hands filled with all the interconnected threads of this investigation. The local police are hostile and offering little help. He has the expertise of Sara to assist him, but she is not without her own biases that may obscure her view of the facts. She is clever enough though to rather quickly figure out Will's secret, a secret that may hamper his ability and could mean the end of his career if it comes known.
Oh, there are a lot of secrets here in Grant County!

This is the eighth  book in the Slaughter's Grant County series, a fact I did not realize until well into the book. These characters have all appeared before and previous books have explored their own histories and their previous interactions but this book is easily successful as a standalone. Slaughter is careful to explain the parts of the characters pasts that are relevant in this story, and little references to past incidents have me very curious to check out the earlier books in the series.

While the plot of this book is quite good, I think the real strength of the story lies in the characters.. and what a bunch they are. There is no easy black and white here. They are a flawed group, with sometimes complex motivations, that the author skillfully explores. As a reader, flawed and complex is very interesting. The dialogue is very well written and the characters act in a realistic and intelligent way. Now, I did have a few issues with the story, small issues. It is hard to believe that Will could have advanced to this point in his career without his secret being found out and I must say I found Sara a bit whiny. But part of that may be that I have not read the previous books in the series where their own stories have been explored more. Also, I must say I thought the ending was a bit rushed and not totally logical, but these are small flaws in what is, overall, a very good suspense novel.

This is the first of Karin Slaughters that I have read (yes, that is her real name, and yes, quite a name for a mystery writer, isn't it?), but I can assure you it will not be the last. Strongly recommended for mystery/police procedural fans.

My thanks to Amazon Vine for an ARC of this book.
It will be available for sale on 6/22/2010.


  1. I'm assuming this is her newest? I read and reviewed a book by Slaughter with the same characters about 9 months ago, and really enjoyed it. You are right, the attraction is the characters (and yes Sara is a little whiny, but I had some empathy for her). The crime itself was quite gruesome, almost over the top which is a trap that these books fall into sometimes. I finished my book thinking I'd like to read her again though.

  2. yes, this is her newest. and from what I have read about the others, this one may not have been as gruesome as some of her earlier books. the second murder, one particular point, was a bit shocking, but overall, I did not find it bad.
    But then I rather like gruesome.

  3. I always wondered if Slaughter was her last name - I guess she was meant to write this type of book. Great review!

  4. I read that in a interview she gave once, that she was lucky she did not end up writing romance novels..the name would have been an

  5. I actually saw a billboard for this book ... sounds like she has the stuff to back up such an advertising campaign. I'll have to check her out.

    And that is too perfect a name for a suspense thriller writer!

  6. I'm looking forward to this one as well; lucky you!


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