For some reason I’ve never quite grasped, most people who read novels favor writers who craft their prose with consummate care, reaching for poetic imagery and exotic wordplay that is thought to be “good writing.” In the case of some ambitious literary creation, I can certainly understand that. The total effect of a literary masterpiece can be greatly enhanced by clever combinations of words and intriguing imagery. But in most of what is viewed as “genre fiction” — mysteries, science fiction, romance — it’s the story I look for. Efforts to dress up the work with fancy language sometimes even get in the way. And, most important of all, I look for stories that enhance my understanding of contemporary issues such as homophobia.

All this goes by way of prelude to my reading of Blindsighted, the first of Karin Slaughter’s eleven crime novels set in Georgia (the American state, not the counry in the Caucasus). This heart-stopping novel was an international best-seller, and understandably so. It introduced the first of two overlapping casts of fascinating characters that people all the succeeding books.

Blindsighted, set in rural Grant County in Southern Georgia, focuses on Dr. Sara Linton, the 30-something town pediatrician and part-time coroner; her ex-husband, Jeffrey Tolliver, who is Chief of Police; and Lena Adams, a young detective. Unlike the superhuman protagonists of so many popular thrillers, these characters come across as real people. They’re three-dimensional. They screw up. They act out from time to time.

Blindsighted (Grant County #1) by Karin Slaughter ★★★★☆

But it’s the unfolding story that enmeshes all three of them so tightly and tests their character to the limit that is the centerpiece of Blindsighted. Lena’s twin sister, a blind woman who teaches chemistry at the local technical university, has been horrifically raped and murdered. As Jeffrey and Lena desperately hunt for a suspect in the absence of tangible clues, the rapist strikes again, and again, raising tensions in the small town of Heartsdale to the boiling point. It would be cruel to outline the story any further. Suffice it to say that this is one of those books of which it is said that “you can’t put it down.”

Prominent in the background of this novel are the social and economic patterns that characterize contemporary life in the small-town South. There are outbursts of racism and homophobia, a pattern of class consciousness, and the pressures of conformity. Clearly, Karin Slaughter knows whereof she writes.

For additional reading

For the full list of the books in this series, go to Karin Slaughter’s well-crafted series of Grant County thrillers.

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For an abundance of great mystery stories, go to Top 20 suspenseful detective novels. And if you’re looking for exciting historical novels, check out Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here.

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