Bestselling US author Karin Slaughter is back with her latest novel Pretty Girls, a fast paced roller-coaster ride of deceit, murder, family dynamics and missing teenagers. Karin Slaughter is a stalwart of her genre, having sold more than 30 million copies of her crime books in 32 languages, with a solid fan base throughout the world. Known for her “Grant County” series and “Will Trent series”, the Atlanta based author got the idea for Pretty Girls from a particularly vivid dream, discontinued the novel she was already working on, and instead began to spin the story of Claire and Lydia, two sisters who have lived through the tragic disappearance of their sister Julia, an event that tore their family apart twenty years ago, and which comes back to threaten, not just their sanity, but their actual lives.
Twenty years after Julia has vanished without a trace Claire and Lydia are estranged and living poles apart – Claire is married to Paul, a wealthy Atlanta business man, and although she is leading a privileged life she has never quite recovered from her past family drama, which is thrown into light by the highly publicised disappearance of another young woman; while Lydia leads an entirely different life, as a single mother with an ex-con boyfriend and a low paying job. When tragedy hits Claire and her husband Paul is murdered in a street robbery, Claire unwillingly begins to uncover a trail of deception and horror that spans the past twenty years, and requires her to call on Lydia for help. Together they try to uncover the truth, and in the process expose themselves to a danger that they could never have imagined.
The issue of dysfunctional family dynamics, denial and sisterhood underlie the narrative, which is told in third person alternating between Lydia and Claire’s experiences, and which is framed at the beginning and end of the narrative by the poignant first-person letters of their father, addressed to Julia after her disappearance. There is plenty of raw, hard-hitting action in the novel, and those with an aversion to violence against women might be best to stay clear; yet there is also an undercurrent of salvation and good old revenge, which could work to make these aspects redeemable.
The title of “Pretty Girls” is played on throughout the novel, with some rhetoric about the pitfalls of beauty and youth, and the way that this is experienced by the characters of the novel, and society in general. The price of “beauty” is in some ways characterised by the character of Claire and the missing girls, but raises a series of questions which the novel does not necessarily answer.
A master of her craft, Karin Slaughter does not hesitate to bring out the “big guns” of action to hook you into the plot within the very first chapter, with finely tuned and compelling characterisations and the well-used element of “I did not see that one coming”. The roller-coaster of action and surprise takes this novel from beginning to end fairly seamlessly, and fans of the white-knuckled thriller will definitely enjoy this latest instalment from this very seasoned crime author.