This is the seventh book in Karin Slaughter's Will Trent series*. Will Trent is an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In typical modern crime fiction style he is a detective with "issues", although (just for a change of pace), Will's issues don't involve substance abuse. Instead, he suffers from the after-effects of a horrific childhood in foster care, while also dealing with severe dyslexia and a crazy-stalker estranged wife to whom he is bound by ties which reach back to the horrific childhood. Will is one messed-up man, and frankly, it's surprising that he ever manages to get any work done. Sounds like a nightmare, and he probably would be in real life, but Slaughter has somehow managed to make Will Trent a very appealing hero.
This time the narrative focuses much less on Will and his work partner Faith and more on Will's boss Amanda Wagner and Faith's mother Evelyn Mitchell, who worked their first homicide case together in 1974. The narrative alternates between the present day and 1974. Those parts of the novel set in 1974 are something of a social history of Atlanta -and particularly of policing in Atlanta - and Slaughter has done an excellent job depicting the sexism and racism which was pervasive in the police force (and in society generally) at that time.
In some ways, this is the novel which fans of the series have been waiting for, because it explains Will's background. The explanation is not pretty. However, it makes things which have been alluded to in previous books in the series fall into place. While some parts of the plot were entirely predictable, there was a twist which I hadn't anticipated, so from that point of view it had a satisfying resolution.
This is not high literature, but then it doesn't pretend to be. That said, Slaughter is a more than competent writer, who can put together a decent plot and knows how to build suspense. In addition, she writes good dialogue and can create a sense of place and time without it feeling forced. And in this series she's created some interesting and memorable characters of whom I have become quite fond. This doesn't make the plot all that plausible and I would have preferred a somewhat less gruesome way of having the villain commit murder. But this is contemporary crime fiction, and implausibility is usually part of the package, as is, for that matter, a certain degree of gruesomeness.
I started reading this book a little worried that I wouldn't like it. Crime fiction series tend to run out of steam after a while. Or at least, as a reader of crime fiction, I tend to get bored with what I once found compelling. Happily, that hasn't happened to me yet with this series. The novel became a page-turner and left me hoping that there'll be another book in the series. I'm not yet sick of Will, Faith, Amanda and Sara.
*It's the sixth novel. A novella in e-book format only was published not long before the release of this one.