Taking a break from her well-regarded series about Grant County Medical Examiner Dr. Sara Linton (Faithless, 2005, etc.), Slaughter turns to a stand-alone in which horrific physical violence grows out of the psychological kind.
Nobody would care about Aleesha Monroe, the prostitute slain in an Atlanta housing project, if her killer hadn’t bitten off her tongue. But because Aleesha’s the fourth such victim in recent months, Det. Michael Ormewood is under intense pressure from his lieutenant to close the case—even though Michael’s already got his hands full juggling a mentally challenged son and a seductive next-door neighbor. The pressure is only intensified when Will Trent, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Special Criminal Apprehension Team, is assigned to the case, and when Will starts to lean on his childhood friend, Vice cop Angie Polaski, for help. Across town, saintlike John Shelley, just released from prison after serving 20 years for rape and murder, has troubles of his own: a dead-end job, a roach-infested apartment, a hard-nosed parole officer and the certainty that everyone who sees him knows he did time for killing a 15-year-old girl. When John, after rescuing a hooker from assault, walks her home and pays her colleague Robin to tell him about her first kiss, the story takes wing, and Slaughter, whose hallmark in her first five novels had been grueling forensics, shows a rare and generous capacity for compassion. Though there are mysteries along the way—how did John manage to compile a stratospheric credit rating while he was in stir, and what’s the connection between the violence past and present?—Slaughter has the courage to detonate her biggest bombshells early on, keeping even the wariest readers off-balance and leaving the last act for a settling of accounts.
The volcanic heroes and villains, who act both surprisingly and logically, are a welcome sign that Slaughter’s trademark franchise only hints at the range of her gifts.