There are two great things about FALLEN, Karin Slaughter's new novel and the latest installment in her Will Trent/Atlanta series. The first comes near the hair-raising climax, a moment that is creatively on par with Jack Nicholson's immortal "Here's Johnny!" in The Shining. This one takes place while someone is going through some board games, but you need to read every word of what comes before to get the full effect. The second thing? Well, everything else in FALLEN --- the narrative, the characterization, the mystery, the suspense, the action, every word from beginning to end.
One warning to the faint of heart: FALLEN is a long trip through the funhouse. Slaughter knows how to surprise and shock her audience, and she takes this talent to new heights here.
Let me start with the narrative. There is so much to love. What is great here is that Slaughter has created this long and complicated history among several of the characters not only from thisseries but also from her Grant County books. Still, you can read FALLEN and pick up on everything important that you need to know in order to follow what's happening. Furthermore, Slaughter can put you in a room and make you see the sights, smell the scents and hear the sounds in a matter-of-fact way that few authors can.
Now on to the characters. Will Trent, a member of the Special Criminal Investigation Team of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, has an unusual background. He was raised in foster care, has a learning disability that he keeps to himself, and is married to one of his foster home "sisters" in what is one of the most co-dependent, self-destructive relationships you'll ever encounter in fiction. It will make you cringe, even as you love every second of it. Will is also a great cop, even if his boss, the hard-riding Captain Amanda Wagner, pretends she doesn't know it. Despite his ill-fated matrimonial situation, Will is hopelessly smitten with Dr. Sara Linton, who returns the feelings, even though she...
But you get the idea, I think. These are complex characters. And I haven't even gotten to the mystery part of FALLEN, which provides the hair-raising suspense that permeates every nook and cranny of this book from start to finish.
It's simple enough, taking place over the course of the longest, deadliest three days you'll encounter in some time. It starts on a Saturday, with Faith Mitchell, Will's professional partner, who is being held over in a training seminar and is late in picking up her infant daughter from her mother's house. Faith's mother, Evelyn, a former cop herself, isn't answering her phone, which concerns Faith. She arrives there to find a murder victim in one room, a deadly hostage situation in another, and Evelyn missing. Things become excruciatingly exciting by, oh, page two, and even more so as the book progresses.
No one has any idea why Evelyn might be missing, or who may have taken her, or whose blood is all over the kitchen, or whether Evelyn is even still alive. Actually, Will may have an idea, and Amanda knows both more and less than she is ready to reveal. The entire answer to that question, however, will be found in a trail of murder and crime and corruption that stretches back in time and culminates --- literally --- right back where it started. Much has changed by the end of the book, which will surprise Slaughter's long-time readers and instantly addict her new ones. And, before I forget, savvy mystery novel aficionados will note an extremely brief but quietly funny tribute to one of Great Britain's brighter suspense lights inserted within the narrative. Mark my word.
One warning to the faint of heart: FALLEN is a long trip through the funhouse. Slaughter knows how to surprise and shock her audience, and she takes this talent to new heights here. By turns quietly creepy and suddenly explosive, there are parts of the novel that are the literary equivalent to having a large spider drop onto your head in the middle of high mass. The only difference is that, at some point in your life, you will forget about the spider. There is no way you will ever forget FALLEN.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 3, 2011