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Author: Karin Slaughter

Title: Fallen

Publisher: Century

Hardback: 387 pages

ISBN: 978-1-8460-5794-6

Price: £18.99

Publication Date: 07/07/2011

At the outset of this review I must make a confession. I love Karin Slaughter’s novels, so much so that when I received my copy of her new thriller, Fallen, in the post a couple of weeks ago, I can say – without any shame – that it was the highlight of my day! So, yes, calling me biased would be somewhat of an understatement. But it also means that I expect a huge amount from her novels. So, if Fallen hadn’t been any good then it would have made it doubly disappointing for me.

Therefore, when I reveal that I spent a long time trawling through my notes prior to writing this review, unable to find much in the way of constructive criticism, it should tell you quite how brilliant Fallen is. The only thing I could come up with was that the central mystery plot was, on occasion, slightly too labyrinthine and confusing for me. But this is really grasping at straws, because a thriller that has twists and keeps the reader guessing is never a bad thing!

Indeed, Fallen was so good that I went through it in a little over a day. And when I finished it I cursed myself for not having more restraint and for failing to prolong the reading experience over a longer period of time. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and it was just so damned addictive that I couldn’t stop myself – I needed to find out how the plot was going to resolve itself!

So, when GBI – that’s the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a state version of the FBI – agent Faith Mitchell returns home late from a training seminar to find her four-month-old daughter locked in the shed, her mother’s gun missing from the safe, and a trail of blood leading into her house, she knows that something is very wrong. Without waiting for backup, Faith charges into the house. By the time the police arrive, there are three dead bodies, Faith’s mother has disappeared and Faith finds herself off the investigation and under suspicion. It’s an explosive start to a book that doesn’t let up in pace or suspense.

It is left up to Faith’s partner, the tall, enigmatic and very dyslexic Will Trent, to try to uncover the secret from Evelyn Mitchell’s past that has led to her kidnapping. A task that isn’t helped by the interference of Will’s boss, the manipulative Amanda Wagner, who seems to know far more about the case than she is letting on to Will.

If you have never read a Slaughter novel before, then Fallen probably isn’t the ideal place to start. The various dynamics and relationships between the characters have been evolving over the previous books in the series and I would imagine that it would be quite difficult to come to it without any previous knowledge of the characters.

However, for a veteran reader of Slaughter’s books [like me], Fallen brilliantly explores – and evolves – Will’s relationships with the four strong women who dominate his life: Faith, Amanda, Angie Polaski [his sometimes wife] and Sara Linton. Will is a great and unique protagonist, one who I always find myself sympathising with and rooting for. But then, I am a sucker for flawed and tragic figures, and Will is certainly that [he was found in a dustbin when he was an infant and has numerous wounds, both mental and physical].

But, Slaughter has also managed to create a raft of interesting characters and this allows her to constantly shift between them So, in her previous novel, Broken, the emphasis was on Will and Sara. However, in Fallen, Faith takes centre stage and Sara is a more peripheral figure [although she is involved in my favourite scene in the book – when she comes face to face with her rival for Will’s affection, Angie. I’ve been waiting for it to happen for two books and it didn’t disappoint!].

This range of characters and ability to shift between them from novel to novel really allows Slaughter to keep the characters constantly fresh and avoids the staleness that can happen in a crime series when a single figure is the focus of every book in the series.

Fast, suspenseful and full of the sort of gore-filled scenes that have made Slaughter [in]famous as an author, Fallen is a brilliantly tense and twisting read and showcases Slaughter’s ability to tell a story, her dark sense of humour, and her rare ability to balance extreme and shocking violence with complex and all-to-human characters. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough and now I have to hope that my addiction to Karin Slaughter’s writing will allow me to survive the interminable wait until her next novel is published!
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