Karin Slaughter is best known for the Grant County and Will Trent series of crime novels and her bestselling standalone thrillers, Cop Town, Pretty Girls, and The Good Daughter. All fall neatly within the mystery and suspense genre. With Pieces of Her, Slaughter’s most recent standalone effort, she ventures gingerly out of the box. Unlike all her previous books that I’ve read, this novel is political in much the same sense as are John Grisham’s books about corporate corruption. Slaughter is a terrific writer. She pulls it off. But she’s clearly in unfamiliar territory.
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter (2018) 480 pages
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Karin Slaughter’s latest novel: an explosive opening for a page-turner
In a brief prologue, we meet a woman later identified as Laura Oliver. “She had always believed—vehemently, with great passion—that the only way to change the world was to destroy it.” Then, in an opening chapter set in 2018, Laura and her daughter Andy become caught up in a spree shooting in a Savannah, Georgia mall. Laura manages to kill the shooter with the man’s own knife.
With an opening like that, we know this book will be a page-turner. And nothing that comes later is disappointing.
A spree shooting, a billionaire criminal, and a revolutionary group
Pieces of Her follows Andy (Andrea) Oliver as a 31-year-old in the present and her mother, Laura, as an even younger woman 32 years earlier. The action unfolds in sections that alternate between the two dates.
In the present, Andy’s life is “stagnating.” She says, “I’m thirty-one years old, I haven’t gone on a real date in three years, I have sixty-three thousand dollars in student debt for a degree I never finished and I live in a one-room apartment over my mother’s garage.” Suddenly, now, Andy is forced to struggle with the sudden infamy her mother has gained by killing the shooter: someone had recorded the event on a cell-phone camera, and the recording was running repeatedly on CNN.
In 2018, “Laura was a licensed speech pathologist living in a coastal retirement community.” We learn that “she had dozens, even hundreds, of friends, but not one single person knew all of the pieces of her.” Which sets us up for learning that Laura is not her real name. She is Jane Queller, daughter of the billionaire founder of a corporation that manages group homes for the mentally ill. Her father’s company makes most of its money through fraud, charging the government for patients it has long since released. And the young Laura becomes involved in a revolutionary group that seeks to destroy the company and her father.
I won’t spoil the story by revealing more. Suffice it to say that in Karin Slaughter’s latest novel, the tension builds steadily throughout the book. The ending is as explosive as the beginning. Karin Slaughter deserves her reputation as one of today’s preeminent thriller writers.
For additional reading
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For an abundance of great mystery stories, go to Top 20 suspenseful detective novels (plus 200 more).
For your convenience, I’ve also listed all the Mysteries and thrillers reviewed here in 2018.