Hardback: 398 pages
Publication Date: 08/07/2010
With a name like Slaughter [and yes, it really is her actual surname], there were really only a few career paths that Karin Slaughter could have gone down – and being a doctor certainly wasn’t one of them. And although becoming a crime writer was one of these avenues, she could not really have written cosy, Agatha Cristie-esque novels. Only violently graphic crime fiction would really suffice, and she excels at these.
That being said, Broken is one of the less gruesome and gory of her output to date. True, there is a fairly horrific murder where a man is hit round the back of the head so forcibly that he bites off his tongue, but that really isn’t much when compared to some of the brutality that occurs in her earlier novels [which include, amongst other vicious crimes, serial rape, crucifixion and genital mutilation].
Instead, Broken deals far more with the fractured nature of a small community in Grant County, Georgia, after the death of a female student who had attended the local college. The police initially suspect that the girl had committed suicide, but then realise that it is in fact a murder. Leaping to conclusions, they arrest an intellectually handicapped local boy who then commits suicide in his cell, having first been coerced into a confession. But the local police are unable to sweep the incident under the carpet when Sara Linton, the former Grant County medical examiner, becomes suspicious of the lead detective, Lena Adams and decides to call in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to, well, investigate.
However, it isn’t just civic spirit that makes Sara take this action; she blames Lena for her husband’s death a few years before, and is motivated by hate and a need for revenge. And it is agent Will Trent that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation sends to look into the case [this is the second novel, after Genesis, in which Slaughter has brought together her Grant County and Will Trent series]. But he and Sara find themselves up against a wall of silence and distrust from the local community.
Slaughter brings to bear her knowledge of growing up in a small Georgian community in this clammily effective crime thriller, with her portrayal of a group of individuals disaffected with their lives but nevertheless wary of what the perceive to be outside interference. And by switching between Lena, Sara and Will’s narratorial voices the reader is constantly reminded that we can never trust everything that theses characters tell us [and everyone in this novel has an agenda]. On a personal level, I was also really pleased that Will Trent became the focal point of the novel. With his dyslexia, eccentric manner of dressing in a three-piece suit [which is unfortunately absent from this novel] and his fraught relationship with his serially unfaithful wife, he is definitely a character that I want to read more about in future Karin Slaughter novels.