Small-town crime is the theme in "Broken."

Broken, last year’s entry in Karin Slaughter‘s decade-long series of crime thrillers set in her native Georgia, brings together two of her leading characters, Dr. Sara Linton and Will Trent, as they confront small-town crime.

Linton, now a physician working in the ER in an Atlanta hospital, returns home to Grant County in southern Georgia for the Thanksgiving holiday. There she confronts a series of troubling reminders of her husband’s murder years previously. As the town’s former coroner, far more able than the mortician who took over her job when she fled to Atlanta, Dr. Linton becomes embroiled in the first of a series of mysterious murders. Convinced that the local police are incompetent at best, she calls in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and is soon reunited with Agent Will Trent, whom she had previously met in Atlanta.

Trent, the centerpiece of several previous novels by Slaughter, is a brilliant detective with a troubled past in a children’s home, a sadistic and unfaithful wife, and a deeply secret disability: he is severely dyslexic. Apart from his boss and partner, no one has managed to detect Trent’s disability, but Sara Linton quickly picks up on it in the course of the fast-moving investigation. It appears as though we can look forward to a developing relationship between the two.

Broken (Will Trent #4) by Karin Slaughter ★★★★☆

In several ways, Broken is exceptional, like an earlier novel of Slaughter’s that I read two or three years ago. Her description of small-town life rings true; other authors often treat their settings perfunctorily, simply making them places where stuff happens. Her leading characters are smarter and more able than most but avoid looking like the superheroes who populate some other thrillers. Perhaps most remarkably, there are loose ends as the novel draws to a close, and not all the bad guys get their comeuppance.

Karin Slaughter, just 40 years old now, has been publishing best-selling thrillers for little more than a decade. I’m looking forward to a lot more from this talented Southern writer.

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