Thursday, July 2, 2015

Book Review: Unseen by Karin Slaughter

I came to Karin Slaughter a little late and perhaps that’s one of the main reasons that I enjoy all her tales just as much. Whether they are short stories, novellas or full-scale novels it doesn’t make any difference to me. Her writing is consistently good and so are her plots, and in Will Trent I have found one of the most likeable and unforgettable heroes of crime fiction.

What makes this character different is his flaws, which are a little bit different from those of his colleagues. He’s dyslectic, an orphan and someone who prefers to work alone and undercover, not because he’s misanthropic but simply because he doesn’t want to see people he cares about get hurt. One could say that Will lives in his head, and they’d be more or less right, but that doesn’t mean that he’s unwilling to live in this world, in a circle of friends and lovers; he just finds it hard to do.

In this story Trent, along with many other cops and agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation go after an invisible man, a big time drug dealer who’s currently moving his operations from Florida to Macon. The problem they face in finding out who he is and arresting him is that no one has ever seen him. He runs his business in the darkness and moves in the shadows, and whoever comes close to discovering his identity doesn’t live to tell it.

So, how do you apprehend someone like that? Perhaps the only chance the cops have is to get lucky. But even if they do, will they be able to achieve their goal? Big Whitey, as the drug dealer is called, seems to be someone who’s not only very clever but also extremely careful. Will hopes to get close to him by going undercover, but what if the man you’re going up against knows your every move right from the start?

The author created a tight plot, with some twists and turns, but mostly with lots of downs when it comes to her heroes. Every single one of the protagonists of this series of novels seems to be struggling with their lives, with their past, and with some memories that they want to create but which perhaps are never meant to be. Amanda, Will’s boss and kind-of-a-mother, has to fight racial and gender discrimination every day, something that makes her life miserable most times than not. Faith, his partner at the GBI has her own ghosts to deal with, while Sara, his doctor-girlfriend is not the happiest woman around either. Can these damaged souls live together or around each other and do their jobs without getting into some serious trouble? Well, they can, and they cannot. And that’s exactly what makes the story work. Their weaknesses make them human, and their humanity brings them close, and as a result they have each other’s back no matter what.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous novels in the series you’ll surely enjoy this one. But if you haven’t had a chance yet to take a look at this author’s fictional criminal world, starting here could be as good a point as any. This is pure, well-written, and finely-tuned crime fiction, and as such if you are a fan of the genre, you’re bound to enjoy it.

First published in Crime Factory magazine.

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