Review by New York Times Review
IN FICTION, as in life, a violent crime can tear a family apart. In Karin Slaughter's PRETTY GIRLS (Morrow/HarperCollins, $27.99), a hell-raising thriller that departs from her previous soft-boiled investigative procedurals, a murder brings two estranged sisters back together - making them a much better target for a killer who's been stalking the whole family. Claire Scott's pampered existence as the prized wife of a wealthy Atlanta architect comes to a cruel end when her husband, Paul, is fatally stabbed during a mugging. Except for an icky tendency toward extravagant declarations of devotion, Paul seems like an O.K. guy. But when Claire searches his computer for his work files, she's horrified to discover graphic snuff films. And after finding her sister, Lydia, standing over Paul's grave and cursing him, she reconsiders the matter that has kept them apart for 18 years - her refusal to believe Lydia's claim that Paul tried to rape her. The plot perks up once Lydia (whose nickname was "Pepper" back in high school, when she was in a girl band) shows up, with her regret-filled history of too much drugs and liquor and one-night stands, as well as her prickly sense of humor. Hearing her teenage daughter's announcement that she has some bad news, Lydia's first guesses are: "pregnant, failing biology, gambling debts, meth habit, genital warts." And it's Lydia the hellion, not Princess Claire, who's still haunted by the loss of their sister, Julia, abducted during her freshman year of college. But once the sisters bond over those torture-porn videos, Claire takes the lead in exposing her husband's secret life and possibly criminal past. Slaughter executes a number of tricky plot twists, some clever and others preposterous. (Would the F.B.I. really offer witness protection to someone who's a "borderline psychopath"?) But all these sweaty maneuvers are in the service of a genuinely exciting narrative driven by strong-willed female characters who can't wait around until the boys shake the lead out of their shoes. IT'S BEEN AGES since there's been a serial killer in the English city of Brighton, where Peter James sets his fanatically well-researched police procedurals starring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. They don't know what they're missing - until an authentic specimen comes to this seaside resort in YOU ARE DEAD (Minotaur, $27.99) and begins doing unspeakable things to young women with long dark hair. There's plenty of explicit violence here, as there is in other novels in this series; but that's beside the point. Despite the horrific nature of the crimes, this is no guts-and-gore potboiler, but a meticulous study of police work as it's conducted at the station houses, crime scenes, mortuaries and forensic labs outside the big cities. (Among other fun facts, these cops have to be granted permission for the "use of firearms in a spontaneous incident.") Following the protocol for a good procedural, the narrative dotes on Roy Grace, but it also tracks the work done by other members of the homicide team, like his salt-of-the-earth partner, Detective Inspector Glenn Branson. In that soap opera D.S. Grace calls his life, he's still gaga over his second wife and their new baby, but there's a fascinating development involving the fate of his first wife, long missing and presumed dead. IN THE CHILD GARDEN (Midnight Ink, $24.99), Catriona McPherson draws a warmhearted character study of a woman who stoically copes with the truly awful hand fate has dealt her. Gloria Harkness works in (and lives alone near) the grounds of a nursing home that shelters both her severely handicapped son and the old woman whose generosity makes it possible for Gloria to board him there. But once upon a time the big country house was a private school called Eden - until a pupil died under mysterious circumstances. When an old schoolmate shows up on her doorstep, pursued by a stalker, Gloria takes him in and soon finds herself caught up in that sad, long-ago mystery. McPherson writes with the firm but delicate touch of a spider testing the strength of its web. Her account of what happens when good little children tell big, bad lies is a tale that shivers with suspense and more than a touch of horror. A LOST, FRIGHTENED boy confesses that he has just murdered his foster father, who was abusing his brother. Now what do you do with him? In Stuart Neville's bruising new novel, THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND (Soho Crime, $27.95), 12-year-old Ciaran Devine is sent to a Belfast prison, only to emerge seven years later as the same lost, frightened boy. During those years his older brother, Thomas, has grown into a vicious bully; once they're reunited, he firmly instructs Ciaran to distrust every figure of authority who tries to help him. These people are their enemies, even Paula Cunningham, Ciaran's kind and caring probation officer, and Detective Chief Inspector Serena Flanagan, who knows a child murderer when she sees one and doesn't think Ciaran fits the profile. Neville's books are dark but elegantly written case studies of the roots of violence, and here he writes thoughtfully, even tenderly, about children who come from the streets, go through the foster programs and the prison system, and are either reborn or dragged back into the sorrows that are their inheritance.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [October 4, 2015]
Review by Booklist Review
In her second stand-alone thriller, after Cop Town (2014), which was nominated for an Edgar, veteran crime writer Slaughter shifts her focus from cops to the victims of a crime. Teenage Julia disappeared 20 years ago, and her family has never been the same. Julia's body was never found, preventing her parents and sisters from coming to terms with their loss. Lydia, a single mother struggling to support herself, has long been estranged from her sister, Claire, due to the accusations Lydia leveled against Claire's wealthy husband, Paul. But now Paul has been murdered, the victim of an armed robbery, and Claire has found some very disturbing files on his computer, including snuff films featuring the torture and murder of young girls. She reaches out to her sister, and the two seek to determine just what kind of man Paul was and what, if any, link he might have to the disappearance of their sister. A gritty page-turner about the crimes perpetrated against women and the devastating effect on those who love them. One caveat: Slaughter's many fans know to expect hard-edged scenes, but this novel contains some of the most gruesome she has ever written. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Mega-best-selling Slaughter's previous stand-alone was an instant New York Times best-seller; her second is sure to follow suit.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2015 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Claire Scott, the heroine of this gripping standalone from bestseller Slaughter (Cop Town), thought she knew everything about her architect husband, Paul, but her posh Atlanta life is turned upside down when he's fatally stabbed in an alley and she uncovers a series of nasty videos on his home computer. Paul's dark side is what drove a wedge between Claire and her sister Lydia 18 years earlier, when Lydia accused Paul of attempted rape. At the time, Claire sided with Paul, and the sisters stopped speaking. The family was already splintered following the 1991 disappearance of Claire and Lydia's older sister, 19-year-old Julia, who vanished near her University of Georgia dorm. Paul's death brings Claire and Lydia back together as they begin peeling back the layers of everything that the meticulously organized Paul kept hidden. Chapters from the girls' father's journal, written to the missing Julia, form a poignant counterpoint to the chilling violence of this unsettling tale. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders & Associates. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
After Claire Scott's millionaire husband of almost 20 years is killed by a mugger, she's devastated. Paul was her rock, and the happiness she felt with him was unlike anything she'd ever known. When an attempted burglary during the funeral brings cops and an FBI agent to their house, Claire discovers Paul may have been hiding something. As events escalate, she calls on Lydia, her estranged sister (whose life as a struggling single mom is worlds away from Claire's privileged one), for help. Soon they uncover evidence that could solve the mystery of the recent disappearance of a young girl, and may also hold the key to their own sister Julia's disappearance 20 years ago. VERDICT Slaughter's (Cop Town) stand-alone novel packs a heck of a wallop, and while it's a powerful thriller, it's also a deft look into a family forced to confront horrific tragedy. Slaughter's longtime fans will be thrilled. New readers will be hooked on this twisted tale from page one.-Kristin Centorcelli, Denton, TX © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Twenty-four years after a traumatic disappearance tore a Georgia family apart, Slaughter's scorching stand-alone picks them up and shreds them all over again. The Carrolls have never been the same since 19-year-old Julia vanished. After years of fruitlessly pestering the police, her veterinarian father, Sam, killed himself; her librarian mother, Helen, still keeps the girl's bedroom untouched, just in case. Julia's sisters have been equally scarred. Lydia Delgado has sold herself for drugs countless times, though she's been clean for years now; Claire Scott has just been paroled after knee-capping her tennis partner for a thoughtless remark. The evening that Claire's ankle bracelet comes off, her architect husband, Paul, is callously murdered before her eyes and, without a moment's letup, she stumbles on a mountainous cache of snuff porn. Paul's business partner, Adam Quinn, demands information from Claire and threatens her with dire consequences if she doesn't deliver. The Dunwoody police prove as ineffectual as ever. FBI agent Fred Nolan is more suavely menacing than helpful. So Lydia and Claire, who've grown so far apart that they're virtual strangers, are unwillingly thrown back on each other for help. Once she's plunged you into this maelstrom, Slaughter shreds your own nerves along with those of the sisters, not simply by a parade of gruesome revelationsthough she supplies them in abundancebut by peeling back layer after layer from beloved family members Claire and Lydia thought they knew. The results are harrowing. Slaughter (Cop Town, 2014, etc.) is so uncompromising in following her blood trails to the darkest places imaginable that she makes most of her high-wire competition look pallid, formulaic, or just plain fake. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.