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A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter

A Faint Cold Fear isn’t a brand-new book, but it’s one the publishers have obviously seen fit to re-release in time for the Christmas holiday reading frenzy, and I’d say it’s a good call on their part – Karin Slaughter is for my money one of the best crime thriller writers working today, up there with Val McDermid and Ian Rankin.

This book is one of six novels so far in the Grant County series, which refers to a fictional county in Karin Slaughter’s home state of Georgia in the United States – the town of Heartsdale in Grant County is a college town, which makes for a perfect setting for a crime writer, in my humble opinion, because of the transient nature of a university setting – with people constantly coming and going – and because it’s an environment in which there tends to be a lot of politics and tension and every kind of student, from the high achievers to the drug-abusing drop-outs.

The story opens with the town’s paediatrician and part-time coroner Sara Linton being called out to an apparent suicide on the local college campus – and as an aside for those with delicate stomachs, the description of the mutilated body is very explicit, so be warned.

The body doesn’t yield anything useful in the way of clues, but Sara and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, who is also her ex-husband, have enough experience between them to get a hunch that something doesn’t add up – there is a long scratch on the victim’s back that can’t be explained, and racial epithets spray-painted on the bridge that he is alleged to have jumped from.

At the crime scene Sara’s heavily pregnant sister is brutally attacked, and then there are two more suspicious apparent suicides which seem to point to a sadistic killer

This is where former police detective Lena Adams, who was kicked out of the force as the result of a falling-out with Tolliver and is now a security guard on campus, comes into the picture – she has survived a brutal rape and the murder of her sister Sibyl, which has left her very damaged emotionally – Tolliver suspects she may have some crucial information through her connection with a former neo-Nazi who may have motive in relation to the victims.

One of the reasons I liked this book so much, and that it works so well as a thriller, is that each of the character has some kind of flaw or personality defect which means that as the reader trying to figure out whodunit and why, you can’t be sure who can be trusted – everyone has some internal demon they’re grappling with, which makes for a complex and satisfying story.

Sara, Jeffrey and Lena are recurring characters in the Grant County series and Karin Slaughter fans will already be familiar with them – but for those new to the books, she does a good job of filling in the backstory of their various histories and wranglings – this is a top crime thriller and is sure to please fans of this genre.

Previously reviewed on

Reviewer: Stephanie Jones

Published by Penguin


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