@@@@@ (5 out of 5)
The Good Daughter, Karin Slaughter‘s new thriller, her nineteenth novel, is set in rural Georgia, like most of the Grant County and Will Trent novels which established her reputation. She was born there and now lives in Atlanta—and it shows. Slaughter’s characters are clearly native to the area. They might live in one or another neighboring state, but nowhere else.
Samantha and Charlotte Quinn are now in their early forties. Known as Sam and Charlie to family and friends, they’re the daughters of Russell (Rusty) Quinn, a criminal defense lawyer who has gained the enmity of nearly everyone who lives in the region. He has defended murderers and rapists, often successfully, and frequently receives death threats as a consequence. (“There was not one low-life alleged criminal in Pikeville, Georgia, that Rusty Quinn would not represent.”) Both Sam and Charlie are also lawyers. Sam is a hugely successful patent attorney in New York; Charlie defends children.
Twenty-eight years ago, their mother, Harriet (“Gamma”) Quinn, was murdered in the kitchen of their home by two young local men as her daughters looked on. Fifteen-year-old Sam was shot in the head and buried alive. Twelve-year-old Charlie escaped by running through the woods adjoining their farm. The action in The Good Daughter alternates between the murder scene and the present day and shifts perspective from one daughter to the other as well as other characters. Their somewhat different recollections dramatically illustrate the unreliability of memory.
The story is anchored in the present because Charlie accidentally witnessed a school shooting. A teenage woman shot the principal of the middle school she’d attended and a little girl who was visiting her mother, one of the teachers. Separated from her husband, she had visited one of the other teachers to swap cellphones which had gotten exchanged when they spent the night together. As the story unfolds, the repercussions of the school shooting gradually coincide with the events on the day of Gamma Quinn’s murder. Slaughter masterfully weaves the two plots together, building suspense to a crescendo in the closing pages of the novel. Her novels have sold thirty-five million copies and have been international bestsellers—and it’s no wonder. Karin Slaughter is without doubt one of today’s most talented and accomplished thriller authors. I rush to buy every new thriller she writes.
The three women characters central to the plot in this new thriller are all brilliant. The mother, “Harriet Quinn wasn’t called Gamma out of a precocious child’s inability to pronounce the word ‘Mama,’ but because she held two doctorates, one in physics and one in something equally brainy that Samantha could never remember but, if she had to guess, had something to do with gamma rays.” Sam has inherited her mother’s smarts: at forty-four, she’s about to become a named partner at one of the world’s leading firms of patent attorneys. Charlie, who is much closer to her father, is only a little less intelligent.
For reviews of other books in this genre, go to 48 excellent mystery and thriller series. For a reviews of two of the author’s earlier novels, see Karin Slaughter’s tale of neo-Nazis and meth in rural Georgia and Violence abounds in Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series. At Karin Slaughter’s series of Grant County thrillers, I’ve reviewed all six novels in that series.