Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter (2015)

Karin Slaughter’s second stand alone novel captures its reader from the beginning and leaves them reeling with each new chapter. Claire and Lydia’s narrative weaves around each other naturally and gives valuable insight into the unfolding story from each protagonists view point. Their juxtaposing characters show just how a horrible situation can divide what was once a tight family. The disappearance of their sister sends Claire into herself, she bottles up her emotions which in times of stress explode outwards onto others. Lydia spirals out of control, delving into a world of drugs and alcohol which sends her to the edge. Divided by Claire’s husband they finally reunite with his death which sets in motion the search for their lost sister.

The conflict between them drives the narrative forward and reveals their own thoughts into each others live choices. I found Claire a hard character to read at the beginning, Slaughter has captured the mind set of a self involved character so well that at times, to me, she could have been an antagonist. During the first reading I was take aback by the Claire’s actions although it wasn’t until I thought about after I finished the novel that the ending made sense. Her mood swings are littered subtly throughout adding to the unity of effect of the ending of the novel. Lydia seems like the only “normal” character, she has a family life and is trying to keep her daughter safe like any mother would. Their own mother however while at times seems just as self absorbed as Claire she comes into her own towards the end of the novel. Through exchanges later we learn that she had never given up on Lydia despite everything that had happened. While Claire and Lydia are the central protagonists by the end of the novel their mother was the character who I resonated with me. When Claire needs her she finally steps up to the plate to be the mother that Claire has needed her to be. After years of seemingly ignoring what happened to Julia she opens up and follows the natural arc of resolution.

Slaughter has created a villain so rounded that at the beginning of the novel something immediately feels off. The simple phrasing and condescending nature does little to warm the reader to him when he is apparently meant to be “good.” As the reader delves deeper into the novel the darkness in the novel becomes more apparent and it shows the extent a controlling psychopath will go to, to keep business going. By including a wider circle of people involved over a long time period shows how evil is “passed down” through the generations and how widely spread it can be found.

The way Slaughter brings the novel full circle to the events twenty years previous is done with precision. The interjections of their fathers letters gives the reader the expository detail into the twenty years previous and allows the reader to form conclusions leading up the final chapters. Looking into their father’s life after the disappearance of Julia shows just how the loss of a child deeply affects the parents. Sam writes letters to Julia whereas their mother has kept her bedroom as a shrine, the only place she can connect with her daughter without having a body to grief.

Slaughters second novel delivers on so many levels. By moving away from a narrative solely focused on detectives, nurses or members of the law enforcement she shows what ordinary people will through to get the truth. By having the law enforcement lingering in the background Slaughter is still staying close to her roots and shows at the same time what victims of the crime think of the officers.

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