Jul 07


Posted by Soliloquy in Books on CD

When Special Agent Will Trent arrives in Grant County, he finds a police department determined to protect its own and far too many unanswered questions about a prisoner’s death. He doesn’t understand why Officer Lena Adams is hiding secrets from him. He doesn’t understand her role in the death of Grant County’s popular police chief. He doesn’t understand why that man’s widow, Dr. Sara Linton, needs him now more than ever to help her crack this case.
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  • Karin Slaughter brings together some of her most memorable characters in “Broken,” her latest thriller. Twenty-one year old Allison Spooner is at the end of her rope. She is short of money, her boyfriend has disappointed her, and her rusted-out hulk of a car is on its last legs. She is struggling to keep up with her college classes at Georgia’s Grant Tech while earning a pittance as a waitress in a diner. Sadly, her dream of escaping her tedious life is shattered when an unknown assailant attacks and kills her.

    Lena Adams, the senior detective on call, is summoned to the scene. At first, it appears that Spooner may have killed herself, but new evidence points to murder. Lena’s boss, interim chief of police Frank Wallace, is not much help. He has been drinking heavily, and his mind is clearly elsewhere. When Wallace, Adams, and Detective Brad Stephens travel to the address where the victim allegedly lived, they discover a possible suspect. What follows is a series of blunders that lead to disaster both for the person taken into custody and the cops who arrest him.

    To make matters more complicated, Dr. Sara Linton, who is a pediatrician, medical examiner, and the widow of the former police chief, Jeffrey Tolliver, is visiting her family for Thanksgiving. Sara despises Lena, whom she blames for her late husband’s death, and would prefer never to lay eyes on the detective ever again. She acidly tell someone that Lena is “never held accountable for anything. She always manages to slither back under her rock.” When Special Agent Will Trent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assigned to look into Allison Spooner’s death, he teams up with Sara, whose expertise proves to be invaluable.

    “Broken” is an exciting, suspenseful, and poignant tale that shows how people sow the seeds of their own destruction. They withhold vital information, try to cover up their mistakes, and shift blame to others. What results is a needless waste of lives and resources. Sara and Will both have inner demons to contend with, but as they get to know one another, they open up a bit and form a tenuous connection.

    Slaughter is a terrific storyteller. The plot is well-constructed and involving, her dialogue is realistic, and the author captures the feeling of life in a small Georgia town, where people know everyone else’s business and cling tightly to their prejudices and pettiness. The characters are generally well-delineated: Dr. Sara Linton is still in mourning for her husband, although he has been gone for four years; Lena Adams has committed her share of screw-ups, but has always been too stubborn to admit her culpability; Will Grant is a good-hearted man and an excellent detective but he is hiding a secret that, if revealed, may affect his future in the Bureau; Frank Wallace, after thirty-five years on the force, is an alcoholic who no longer has what it takes to function on the job. This is a fast-moving story that falters a bit during the final formulaic confrontation. In general, however, “Broken” works, because Karin Slaughter’s compassion for her characters shines through. She depicts them as three-dimensional human beings, warts and all, most of whom would like to fix what is broken in their lives. Unfortunately, not everyone has the courage, honesty, and motivation to face the truth and take the necessary steps to rectify what is wrong.

  • Dr. Sara Linton is in Heartsdale, Georgia visiting her family for Thanksgiving. Being back home from Atlanta stirs up conflicted emotions. The wound of her dead husband, Heartsdale’s former police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, is still fresh. She blames Detective Lena Adams for creating the circumstances that lead to his murder four years earlier.

    A homicide ruins Sara’s plans to keep a low profile while in town. Someone tried to make the murder of a female college student look like a suicide, but Lena turns up clues that reveal a different story. The evidence leads Sara, interim chief Frank Wallace and rookie officer Brad Stephens to the student’s garage apartment, where they surprise Tommy Braham.

    A lot of things are broken in Grant County, including the local police department. Wallace is a raging drunk. Tommy’s arrest was a catastrophe of epic proportions and the confession Lena obtained was probably coerced. Tommy has a low IQ and is highly suggestible. The case probably won’t stand up in court, and that was before someone started tampering with the evidence.

    In custody, Tommy plunges into depression and begs to see Sara, who used to be his pediatrician. By the time she gets to the jail, Tommy has killed himself. Rather than going through channels, Sara reaches out directly to GBI agent Will Trent to investigate the circumstances surrounding Tommy’s death. Sara sees the situation as a chance to exact her revenge revenge on Lena.

    Will knows he won’t be welcomed with open arms, and he’s right. The local police dig in their heels, hide evidence and generally refuse to cooperate with his investigation. To make matters worse, he ends up staying at Sara’s domineering mother’s house, leading to rumors that he’s sleeping with Sara. He has a complicated relationship with his wife back in Atlanta, but that’s not the worst of his problems. He has severe dysgraphia, which makes it virtually impossible for him to read anything. Sara is quick to diagnose his problem, which leads to tension between them.

    While characters with afflictions can be interesting, readers may find it difficult to accept that someone with such a severe handicap could escape detection by his coworkers and superiors. It’s also hard to fathom how he could have progressed through the ranks. Surely his job and advancements would require copious paperwork, written reports, and written examinations. Will reminisces about how his wife helped cover for him, but that stretches credibility to the limit. Vital evidence often comes before him in written form. Delays in interpreting that material could torpedo cases. He even has trouble following directions, so how does he make it to crime scenes?

    There is a lot of history among the characters, much of which comes from Slaughter’s previous novels; however, she does a good job of filling in the history for readers who haven’t read the earlier books. At times, the conflict feels a touch melodramatic and it’s hard to like the characters very much. Lena, at least, begins to lighten up once she realizes that Will has figured out how badly she screwed things up. She achieves a kind of peace in acknowledging that her career may be over. She starts working the case with a diligence she previously lacked.

    The resolution of the crime comes out of left field, though. There are clues to the motivation behind the murders, but they’re very subtle, and some readers my feel like Slaughter has been stingy. The killings are more brutal than the motive would seem to explain.

    Also, people make much of the fact that everyone in tiny Heartsdale knows everyone else’s business and yet Lena’s relationship manages to remain secret and another important character returns to the area without anyone noticing.

  • What a great feeling it is to discover another great author! This is the first book that I have read by Karin Slaughter, but certainly not my last!

    I had a tough time putting this book down. An outstanding story teller, Karin Slaughter knows how to keep a reader spellbound and on the edge of his seat frantically turning pages.

    The story begins with Georgia Grant Tech College Student Allison Spooner’s surprising murder at a lake in Heartland as she contemplates suicide mourning her breakup with her boyfriend Jason Howell.

    Likeable, mentally disabled Tommy Braham is the prime suspect after he runs from what is believed to be the scene of the murder and accidentally stabs police detective Brad Stevens in the stomach with a letter opener. His confession and subsequent suicide seals the deal for arresting officer Senior Detective Lena Adams.

    Lena, as policewoman thought to be overzealous, having a problem with following proper police protocol and a propensity of bending the truth is protected by her alcoholic Acting Chief of Police Frank Wallace who has dark secrets and skeletons in his own closet.

    Coming home from Alabama for Thanksgiving, former County Coroner and Hartsdale Children’s Clinic Director Dr. Sara Linton, wife of Jeffery Tolliver, murdered former Grant County Police Chief blames Lena for his death and becomes involved in the case with an agenda to make Lena pay for her transgressions.

    Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Will Trent is called to investigate the murder following, Acting Chief of Police Frank Wallace and Senior Detective Lena Adam’s apparent dubious and obstructive behavior in the case.

    With the murder of Allison Spooner’s boy friend Jason Howell after Tommy’s death, his involvement in the murder is dispelled.

    Slaughter keeps the reader involved as the story evolves and the killer’s motive comes to light while putting main characters lives in jeopardy.

    I enjoyed this thriller from beginning to end and can hardly wait to read more from this excellent writer and fabulous story teller.

  • I have a hard time liking a book — enjoying a story, becoming lost in a story — when I don’t like the characters, and I didn’t like the characters in this book. That’s a tough thing to quantify; in a really good book, even the villains are dimensional, allowing you to empathize with them, at least somewhat.

    However, in this book, even the protagonists… at least, I think they were supposed to be the “good” guys… were often not very appealing individuals. I guess the call-in investigator, the fellow with what I suppose is dysgraphia, since our real heroine, a doctor, bristles when his inability to make out symbols in order to read is called dyslexia, was a nice enough guy, although the fact that everyone in his life seemed to be out to get him made him a bit of a nerve-wracking proposal as well.

    In the story, Dr. Sara Linton has come back to Heartsdale, the scene of her husband’s murder four years ago, when he was Chief of Police there and she was county coroner and operator of a children’s medical clinic. She’s visiting with her parents and sister for Thanksgiving, and, largely due to her continued hatred for policewoman Lena Adams, whom she blames for the death of her husband, she is drawn into unsavory events. Although it is not uncommon to say someone is “wooden with grief,” the author’s habit of telling the story from the viewpoint of whichever character seems handy makes Sara seem either practically comatose or snarling with vengeful rage, while, of course, remaining absolutely lovely. The self-destructive Lena Adams remains someone I’d just like to put out of her misery… she’s been walking wounded for the entirety of the series and while she may have cause, it is just gut-wrenching to read about.

    This is definitely a series to read in order, but there is an awful lot of exposition in this book to bring you up to speed on the characters and current situation, nonetheless.

    The dysgraphia is a novel thing to explore and I do applaud that, although I seriously wonder whether it could exist in a professional environment “below the radar,” officially unacknowledged but understood by all parties to be a major deficiency in the workplace. Some people with dysgraphia and dyslexia do thrive in the workplace, but surely they have the support of their co-workers rather than ridicule and scorn?

  • This is the second Grant County novel to feature Will Trent along with Sara Linton. His partner, Faith, is not in this novel except as a phone buddy as she is about to have a baby. Although the story line was decent enough, it lacked the pulse pounding suspense and true thriller sense that I usually get from one of Karin Slaughter’s books. The narrative seemed to drag a little and I was a bit disappointed with this one. Two college kids are killed — why? The murders seemed fairly brutal and a bit of overkill once the reader finds out the reason for them. The police think they have the murderer, a mentally slow man who commits suicide in his cell after giving a full confession. But something isn’t quite right and GBI investigator Will Trent starts to wonder if the police are obstructing justice.

    I was a little confused at first that Will and Sarah seemed so stiff with each other as I had thought that in the previous novel featuring the two of them — Undone: A Novel (Grant County) — that they had already sort of acknowledged, at least to themselves, that there was an attraction and the beginning of some kind of romance. Of course, as always, the ghost of his wife Angie, still looms large. I do wish that he would end things with her once and for all. It lessens him as a character, to me, that he allows her to manipulate him as she does. Other than that, I like him as as character, flawed with his pride and dysgraphia (or dyslexia) but how many times do we have to hear about his handicap and see him rescued. And Lena, she’s up to all her usual tricks and scams. She is a hard character to empathize with, because even as she allows herself some humanity and does tell a bit of the truth to clear things up a bit, she never can bring herself to completely come totally clean and her motives are always questionable. Sara Linton is still grieving the death of Jeffery.

    Several interesting revelations about the characters occur, and most of the loose ends are tied up at the end of the book. All in all, it was a fairly satisfying piece of crime fiction although not as thrilling as some of the previous books.

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