Book review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

After Cop Town, last year’s first stunning standalone thriller, Karin Slaughter is on a roll… and, hopefully, there’s no stopping her now.

By Pam Norfolk
Monday, 27th July 2015, 10:00 am
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Best known for her blistering Will Trent books, the top US author returns to Atlanta, Georgia, for another edge-of-the seat, atmospheric thriller which features two sisters caught up in a deadly vortex of tragedy and deception.

But Pretty Girls is also a fascinating new chapter for Slaughter as she extends her reach beyond her trademark gifts for spine-tingling tension, chilling violence and black humour, and takes us deep into the hearts and minds of victims.

In a dark, highly emotional and utterly compelling tale of secrets, vengeance, betrayal and terrifying evil, Slaughter sets her pin-sharp sights on the psychological disturbance of families torn apart by crime and the loss of a loved one.

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Twenty-four years ago, Claire and Lydia Carroll’s elder sister Julia, 19, vanished without a trace after a night out with friends. The family was devastated, each dealing with the tragedy in a different way.

Julia’s mother Helen tried to rebuild her life for the sake of her other daughters but dad Sam, who kept a diary in the form of a letter to his missing daughter, never moved on and never stopped looking.

The two sisters had a spectacular falling out and have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous wife of Atlanta architect and millionaire Paul Scott. Lydia is a single mother, a former cocaine addict, dates an ex-convict and struggles to make ends meet.

Both Claire and Lydia have never recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss, a lingering wound that is ripped open when another teenage girl goes missing in Atlanta.

Days later, Claire’s husband is murdered and she is left to pick up the pieces of her life. But when she makes a shocking discovery, her mother’s warning that ‘knowing the truth wasn’t always a good thing’ turns out to be more dangerous than she could ever have imagined…

Pretty Girls is an exciting departure from this best-selling author’s gritty crime formula, offering the same powerful mix of menace, suspense and mystery but threading in moving psychological insights and a complex web of personal relationships.

There is immense subtlety and sensitivity at play as Slaughter ratchets up the tension whilst allowing the emotive voice of heartbroken Sam Carroll to illuminate events in the past and lay bare the impact of his daughter’s disappearance on the family.

Prepare yourself for plenty of stunning plot twists, some heart-stopping action and a brand of brutality so monstrous and so harrowing that it will make your stomach turn.

A brilliant page-turner from the thriller queen…

(Century, hardback, £20)