Over the past week I have read the Grant County thriller series by Karin Slaughter. This post is full of major story spoilers.
Initially this series seemed just like any other crime series with a seemingly familar cast of people from the female coroner with plenty of personal issues, the cop who is more than he seems, the other cop who is hellbent on revenge and a host of other fairly cliche characters like the addict done good or the somewhat overbearing mother. However, throughout the series it proved that it was more than that. Indelible [book 4] and Beyond Reach [book 6] were told from a 50/50 angle with present tense and past which makes a welcome change to the standard crime formula and it’s great that the author decided to take risks with her writings to not let it become stale where you would know what happens and neither book 5 nor book 20 would be a surprise.
Karin Slaughter is also quite happy to show the consquences. A traumatic event in Blindsighted affects Lena throughout the series, causes her to react unlike her character, and even leave the police for some time. Sara and Jeffrey’s relationship isn’t perfect once they’re back together nor when they eventually move together, but they deal with the problems in a grown up way throughout by talking through it whenever they realise that they are better together and that their stress is lessened just by being in each other’s company. Equally they’re never too shy to go below the belt and refer to previous indiscretions or similar in arguments and I particularly loved that they could never get any signage replaced because of Jeffrey’s affair with the town’s only signmaker which caused their first marriage to break up.
The author’s strengths therefore lies in her descriptions of her characters. None of them are perticularly likeable, but they seem real, especially with their character’s developments over time. I didn’t buy Jeffrey and Sara’s relationship until Indelible [book 4] which served as a prequel to their relationship where half of it is set on their holiday to his hometown and the other half in present tense during a hostage taking at the police station. Playing a sleepy hometown with a lot of exposition and two timeframes of murders against the brutal and fastpaced present tense worked incredibly well and I couldn’t put that book down. I also didn’t find any surprises in their backstory which shows how they were all acting true to their character and it served to explain a lot of motivations that weren’t too obvious such as Jeremy going to church at the beginning of Blindsighted just to catch a glimpse of Sara.
Another strength is the careful weaving of threads for later use. There are references in earlier books which seem minor, but then pay off in later books when referred back to. Though, perhaps I am giving the author too much credit by suggesting she planned it in advance and I suspect it may be that she needed to insert little bits in later books and went back to see what would fit.
Just like with Lost, I can’t look past the end of the series no matter how much I’d like to. As I said before, I was rooting for Jeffrey and Sara from Indelible and thought that it was really well developed in Faithless. If Karin Slaughter did indeed plan Jeffrey’s death during Indelible then I am assuming it is around the time where the reader is meant to assume that Jeffrey had died during the initial hostage taking which I had already found difficult to digest, but it seemed less harsh as I had the whole book to read so I knew that I’d at least get a bit more of Jeffrey in the flashbacks and, luckily, he wasn’t dead then. After all of the brilliant writing until that point it feels like a shock tactic by the author, an end to guarantee a social buzz or perhaps press or perhaps a way to keep Sara unhappy forever seeing I’ve read she also appears in some Will Trent novels. It’s setting a different tone and whilst ‘happily ever after’ isn’t a concept in her books due to the subject matter, it should still have ended differently as readers have invested six long books into the relationship.
If it wasn’t for last few hundred words I’d have no qualms recommending this series to anyone as, despite some low ratings for the individual books, it’s a very solid series with very well developed believable characters. However, it had left such a bad taste with me that I now would probably not recommend it at all.
Here are the individual reviews and ratings I posted on Goodreads after finishing each book. [Add me on Goodreads where I post reviews of all the books I read.]
Blindsighted – 4/5
I was quite surprised by this book. It’s small town, but not cosy. It’s a horrid set of murders, but it’s not dark and depressing. The twists surprised me, but in hindsight I feel that I just wasn’t paying attention enough and should have see them coming.
Overall the book did feel a little bit too edited though – the characters made conclusions which we had to take at face value and nothing to back it up with. I get that this is in part because of some twists involving the main characters, but it doesn’t help sell them to me. It also felt a little bit short and I think the suspense could have been kept for longer.
4/5 – This is elevated from three to four stars, because I did enjoy reading it and couldn’t put it down, despite its shortcomings.
Kisscut – 3/5
There were a few things that I liked about the book, namely the believable evolution of the main characters.
However, things I didn’t like included:
– The really murky story and disgusting story (paedophilia).
– The fact basically every newly introduced character was involved in the crime somehow (I’m hoping this isn’t going to continue in future books).
– The main male character. Some of the things he said made me dislike him immensely, such as at one point when he wished his girlfriend would use her mouth for something other than talking (which doesn’t sound so bad here, but it bothered me the way it was phrased). He acts irrationally for a large part of the book which the writer no doubt intended to show the trauma he suffered, however, it just makes him incredibly unlikable.
– The bad work by the detective. Yes, she was dealing with all kind of very valid emotional issues, but she had someone commit suicide through her means in both books now and frankly that’s ridiculous! There ought to be consequences. (As I’m writing this review I’m 4% into the next book and I realise she did leave the police though so far unsure of the reasons).
3/5 – This book wasn’t as easy to read as the first one mainly due to the subject matter of the main storyline. I’m invested in the main characters which, even if I didn’t like some/all of their actions, kept me interested.
A Faint Cold Fear – 2/5:
This book seemed a mess from start to finish and, just like the previous one in the serious, had the main characters acting irrationally, but this time I don’t think this can be explained by grief, in fact, if anything, there wasn’t enough considering the seriousness of the situation.
I had an inkling about the murderer earlier on (the aircon scene where Lena cut her hand), but somehow the reveal still came as a surprise to me. When the motive was revealed it felt hollow and pointless and most of all unsatisfying. I get that not evening can and should be wrapped up with a pretty bow, but from the reveal I don’t feel there was anything to make me accept it as it felt rushed and secondary.
I realised about halfway through the book that I was only reading it for Lena – hoping she would get better, but worrying she won’t. I wouldn’t describe her a favourite character (none of the characters in the series are) as there isn’t anything likeable about her and I disagree with I think every single decision she’s ever made, but her flawed character and her own sabotage at getting better are intriguing and I’m really rooting for her to get well, but I fear the author will continue to throw her under every bus and, worse, she may be the murder victim in an upcoming book. Also I’m curious about the end of the book and whether this means that she did kill Chuck.
2/5 – I did want to know the conclusion, I care about Lena, and the book was easy enough to read even if totally unsatisfying.
Indelible – 5/5:
Oh wow, what a ride. I could not put this down!
This serious was in danger of becoming stale and formulaic and I’d already started disliking Sara and Jeffrey in the previous books.
However, this book completely changed the formula and instead of just another murder or murder series it was in equal parts in the present (hostage situation at the police station with Jeffrey wounded, Sara there, etc), as well as in the past when Sara and Jeffrey had to his hometown and all shit breaks lose with old cold cases and a messy current case.
The bodycount in this book is high, but also in two towns this time meaning that, at least for a little while, the population of their small town will still have enough inhabitants for a sequel! I also – again – didn’t see any of the motives and suspects before they were revealed which is starting to make this series really grow on me because it’s different.
However, what really makes this stand apart is the way the book ties in with what we know about Sara and Jeffrey from the previous books and weaving that all together with the drama and tension of the hostage taking and the fear for the survival of some. I realised that I was holding my breath reading that initial chaos in the police station. By showing them in the past just months after getting together it revealed a lot about their relationship and explained some of the weirdness of the past books. They became much more likable again.
Lastly, even though Lena was the main reason I was still interested in this series, I didn’t mind her making just a sparse appearance here, because this wasn’t about her.
5/5 – It seems odd giving this a 5 when I gave the previous ones 4, 3 & 2, but I couldn’t stop reading even when I could barely keep my eyes open at night and I love changing the narrative to show the past and present which is a welcome change in a series and sets it apart from other crime series.
Faithless – 4/5:
It was a hard act to follow the phenomenal last book in the series and whilst this book was good, it wasn’t that great nor that memorable. I’ve finished it in the last half hour and can’t seem to think of too many things that really stood out.
Sara and Jeffrey’s relationship is working well for me. There was a comment or thought somewhere from one of them about how they are good for each other because when stressed or worried they then feel better just being in each other’s company which is sweet. Likewise I enjoy that they’re not a relationship without little squabbles and adjustments, like Sara not wanting Jeffrey to question someone at her practice or the health scare at the beginning. References to dilapidated signage due to his past indiscretions with the town’s only sign maker definitely make me smile each time.
I’m glad to see Lena looking after herself and really hope that that will work out well. She deserves better and I think the parallels in this book made her shift believable though no doubt there will be more issues to come.
The Ward family was described really well and I think those descriptions are what makes the author so good. I don’t feel she’s patronising or preachy or anything with her character descriptions both for occasional as well as regular characters. They feel believable and flawed, just like a real person, and it shows seeing I’d categorise most her characters as unlikable.
4/5 – This wasn’t an easy 4 for me, but I did enjoy it and couldn’t stop reading it hence it’s not a 3 which would be average!
Beyond Reach – 3/5:
There were a few things I enjoyed, such as the time jumps between present day and a few days prior and the overall whodunnit. I quite enjoyed the main story and its suspects and red herrings.
However, towards the end the book rapidly deteriorated and sped up to an insane speed which had happened in her books before but never quite this bad. Discoveries were made, suspects revealed where I couldn’t follow logically as the author hadn’t referred to it. Then there was the whole thing with the discoveries around Lena’s childhood which didn’t sit well with me. Arguably Lena is the most developed character of the series and didn’t need this much more dumped on to her character and, effectively, had previous facts of her changed.
And then there’s the ending that I’m still not over. Killing a major character is a bold choice. Killing a major character within the past two pages with no further developments seems to just be a shock tactic. Now the author explains that she had the idea to kill the main character two books ago, but that’s not what it feels like as a reader where it just seems like a snap decision made when she realised the book got away from her and she needed something to wrap it up.
3/5 – It would have been a 5/5 (couldn’t put it down, good story, number of leads/suspects) had it not been for the ending.