Novelist Karin Slaughter has more tricks up her sleeve than Houdini. Just when you think you know all there is to know about the recurring characters in her books she slips some new and startling information into the mix. At least that is the case with her latest bestseller Criminal, a book that takes you back in time to get some early information about Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Will Trent and his boss Amanda Wagner.
Criminal actually plays out in two different arenas. One scenario takes place in 1975 when Amanda was just starting her career as a detective with the Atlanta Police Department; the other takes place in the present when Amanda is trying to protect Will from some occurrences in his past. Slaughter has the talent to flip us back and forth between these timelines and make us enjoy everything she reveals.
Will Trent and Amanda Wagner have been characters in several of her latest books. So has Sara Linton, Will's love interest, and a Slaughter favorite for even more books. Sara works at Grady Hospital in Atlanta and she has had a troubled life. Only recently has she been able to find a measure of peace through her involvement with Will. Now Will's past threatens to undermine his present, and Sara can't have that.
Amanda Wagner also wants to protect Will, but it is in an almost maternal way. She knows more about his past than she has told him, and she wants to keep what is hidden, hidden. In order for us to understand the Amanda of today we must understand the Amanda of 1975.
Slaughter is a writer with prize-winning skills in creating characters and plots. She is never hesitant to show the underbelly of evil, or to paint crimes in all their most violent modes. A Slaughter book is not easy reading for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Still, Slaughter books are some of the most interesting and fascinating books you will ever discover and Criminal is Slaughter at her most visceral and gut-wrenching best.
With every page of this story the tension mounts and the violence piles up. Will, Amanda and Sara need all their wits and all their skills to deal with the evil they encounter. Even Will's wife Angie, the woman who drifts in and out of his life, has a role to play.
If you have a hunger for a rich and fulfilling novel then you owe it to yourself to pick up Criminal. This is not some appetizer of a story; it is a ten-course meal. It will fill you up with satisfaction, but also leave you wanting more.
Criminal is published by Delacorte Press. It contains 448 pages and sells for $27.00.