I have long enjoyed the manner in which Karin Slaughter has been building her explosive, self-contained universe set within two Georgias: the very real Atlanta and the fictional Grant County. The intricate mysteries that shoot through each installment of both series, and the more recent hybrid books, would be more than enough to keep even the casual reader coming back; it is the interrelationships among the characters, though, that ultimately set these books apart from the majority of their contemporaries. UNSEEN, Slaughter’s latest work, again involves characters from both the Will Trent/Atlanta and Grant County series, creating her most combustible, challenging and grittiest work to date.
"UNSEEN is one of those books that just flies by, and is seemingly impossible to put down once you start reading.... While the book is complete in itself, its surprise ending will leave long-time readers wondering what will happen next."
The book begins with the return of what is perhaps Slaughter’s most unique character, detective Lena Adams, now with the Macon, Georgia police force. Lena inadvertently caused the death of Jeffrey Tolliver, who was chief of police when they were both on the force of the Heartsdale, Georgia police department in Grant County. As UNSEEN opens, Lena is married to Jeffrey’s son, Jared, a motorcycle police officer with the Macon force. Their relationship is strained for reasons that are slowly revealed.
The violent opening features a hit team attacking the couple’s home, leaving Jared severely wounded. Lena kills one of the attackers and severely injures the other. She is prevented from killing him only through the intercession of Will Trent, whose presence at the scene, in full biker garb, is only one of the many mysteries that unfold in these opening pages. Why was the pair attacked? Does it have any relationship to the botched raid on a drug den that Lena led several days before? What was Will Trent, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), doing on the scene? And why did he prevent Lena from murdering the second assailant? All is revealed in due time, though not before other complications arise.
Dr. Sara Linton, Jeffrey Tolliver’s widow, is now working as an emergency room physician in an Atlanta hospital and is romantically involved with Will, who happens to be on an undercover assignment that has put him back into contact with Lena. Sara has never forgiven Lena for her husband’s death. The resulting atmosphere throughout the book is combustible from beginning to end on both professional and personal levels as a second Tolliver may well lose his life, apparently from his involvement with Lena. Meanwhile, an investigation into a drug gang operating on a multi-state level reveals something even worse, operated by a shadowy kingpin whose tentacles into the fabric of the investigation are much deeper than anyone can imagine.
UNSEEN is one of those books that just flies by, and is seemingly impossible to put down once you start reading. Slaughter has demonstrated with her other novels that literally anything can happen --- good or bad --- to any of the characters, and her latest is no exception to that rule. While the book is complete in itself, its surprise ending will leave long-time readers wondering what will happen next.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 3, 2013