One somehow gets the feeling just by picking up UNDONE by Karin
Slaughter that it is a “can’t miss” novel. This
impression --- which is borne out entirely --- is in no small part
due to the name of the author on the book. Slaughter has
demonstrated that she has no qualms about taking major characters
off the board --- I still occasionally read the last few pages of
BEYOND REACH for a reminder of how the job is properly done --- and
for creating horrific circumstances and situations that are
graphically described without descending into exploitation.
But what ultimately makes Slaughter’s work so irresistible
is her ability to weave a puzzling and deadly mystery through the
ebb and flow of relationships: family, lovers, friends, co-workers.
In order to do this, one has to be able to create and sustain
strong, unforgettable characters who will stay with you long after
the book is finished. This, too, Slaughter accomplishes on a
regular basis, whether in her Grant County novels
featuring Dr. Sara Linton or her more recently introduced GBI
series, which focuses on agents Will Trent and Faith Mitchell.
Slaughter brings both series, and all three protagonists, together
in UNDONE, balancing their meeting and involvement credibly
throughout the story.
Following a roller coaster of a prologue that begins like an
episode of “Days of Our Lives” and ends a few pages
later in a quite different manner, Slaughter starts the process of
gingerly moving her protagonists together. Linton, still
emotionally reeling from the death of her husband in BEYOND REACH,
has moved to Atlanta and is working as a hospital emergency room
physician. She is on shift when a woman suffering from horrific,
almost indescribable injuries is brought in for what becomes
lifesaving treatment. By a twist of fate, Faith Mitchell is in the
ER when the patient arrives. Mitchell has been brought there by her
GSI partner, Will Trent, for evaluation and treatment of a sudden
fainting spell. There is a reason for this onset of
Mitchell’s syncope; actually, there are two reasons, one of
which she is aware and the other of which she most assuredly is
not, at least not at first.
For his part, Trent interjects himself, and ultimately the GBI,
into the investigation of the severely injured lady. It is almost
immediately discovered that she and another woman had been abducted
and held captive. Trent, who could be more accurately described as
patiently dogged as opposed to aggressive, takes the case for GBI
and soon becomes obsessed on multiple levels with locating the
killer. He also finds himself being slowly attracted to Sara, even
as he does an obsessive and twisted emotional dance with his
estranged wife, Angie, who flits into and out of his life in a
strange and, yes, sick erotic tableau in which he is by turns a
willing and an unwilling participant.
Everyone is hiding secrets, wounds and weaknesses. Linton is an
emotional wreck, a state that she conceals well but that
nonetheless exists. Trent has a learning disorder that he hides
from all but Mitchell and his superior, one that practically
renders him unable to function in his chosen profession. And
Mitchell’s secrets, known only to Linton, have the potential
to turn her life upside down. Mitchell and Trent strive to overcome
their respective difficulties and the increasing hostilities of
local law enforcement as they attempt to capture a dangerous and
twisted attacker even as more females fall victim to him.
UNDONE is Slaughter’s deepest and most riveting work to
date, a haunting and disturbing tale that closes one door and opens
several others. It is a key book in both the Grant County
and GBI series, not only because of the new developments in
Mitchell’s life, but also due to the mysterious contents of
the letter that Sara receives at the beginning of UNDONE and…
Well, that would be telling. Read and see for yourself.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011