In Karin Slaughter's sixth Will Trent novel, the fourth also featuring Sara Linton, Slaughter moves to a story line she's been building up to with Amanda Wagner and Evelyn Mitchell. The plot of CRIMINAL alternates between 1974/75 - when both Amanda and Evelyn were fresh out of the academy plain clothes officers for the Atlanta Police Department - and present day.
A gruesome murder in present-day Atlanta has echos of a similar case Amanda and Evelyn investigated in '74, a case that also has ties to Will Trent. As the details of both the old and the new case unfold, Will is convinced the murder hits closer to home than he thought possible and he fears it will destroy the relationship he's started to build with Sara Linton.
It is always refreshing to experience an author at this stage in his/her career who is still striving to improve and go further. Karin Slaughter has achieved a high status in the crime fiction genre and it wouldn't be difficult to start coasting, but CRIMINAL is evidence that she has no intention of doing anything of the sort. The complexity of this novel resembles artwork by Escher. How Slaughter does it is baffling but it works sumptuously.
CRIMINAL is a patchwork of social issues all influencing the characters and their environments, shaping who they are and will become. All the race, gender and class issues that raged in the early seventies are front and center as Slaughter brings Amanda and Evelyn more to the forefront, relating their back stories. The change in narrators from FALL to CRIMINAL helps to illustrate the naivety of these two characters early in their career.
I was disappointed to find that Shannon Cochran had not returned for this installment in Slaughter's series as I so enjoyed her narration for FALLEN. However, Kathleen Early's feminine sound is well-suited to two young women just learning how to grow thicker skin, play hard ball with the old boys' network.
Early's sound didn't work as well for me when she covered the male roles, but in CRIMINAL they are less prevalent.
Set in Georgia, the narrator is also tasked with the distinctive dialect, which seemed natural for Early. There is nothing more cringe-worthy than a forced Southern dialect; however, Early's narration is smooth and soothing, despite the sometimes gruesome nature of the content.
Addressing the gruesome content can be a challenge for narrators as well. Part of the strength of Early's narration is bringing out the conflict between the shock of the characters and their desire to make the grade as detectives. Amanda had aspirations to be a "Kelly girl." She wanted to be in the typing pool, but here she is as a "plain clothes officer" (they refused to call the women detectives) walking into an autopsy for a woman who was brutally murdered. If she's sick or chickens out, it'll be reason for the men to disregard her, but what human being male or female can experience such a thing for the first time and not be deeply marred by it? Slaughter dances a delicate dance in these scenes and Early picks up on it expertly.
CRIMINAL, like Slaughter's previous works, doesn't mince words when it comes to the violence or even the rare sex scenes. But at the same time, she manages not to cross the line of gratuitous. Her focus in CRIMINAL is not to make her readers squirm but to make them think. Readers who are sensitive to graphic detail should be aware before reading or listening to the audio. In addition, though, Slaughter has a wicked sense of humor. Readers can be guaranteed at least several laugh out loud moments. Early does a fine job emphasizing them as well.
I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in AudioGo's blog tour for this audio. And they have provided me with an excerpt from the audio to share. I'm the tail end of the tour, so you may want to go back and check the bloggers who reviewed before me to see what they had to say and also to listen to their excerpts. And again, before you click on my excerpt, please be aware that there are some graphic elements included.
CRIMINAL is available as a CD audiobook or an mp3 download from AudioGo. It's a 16 hour audiobook, narrated by Kathleen Early.
For those who are not up for the audio, the print version is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9780345528506) from Delacorte Press.
You can learn more about Karin at her website and also join her Facebook page. I also highly recommend signing up for her newsletter. It is one of the best author newsletters I've ever seen. Fun stuff. Fun lady!
A GIVEAWAY!! The generous folks at AudioGo who put this together also gave me two copies of the audio - your choice, CD or download - to giveaway. So I was trying to brainstorm some kind of question for this one...the best I could come up with is a favorite memory from learning to drive (you'll understand the connection after you've listened to/read the book). And it can be you personally learning to drive or your child learning to drive...just a memory related to learning to drive. And make sure I have some way to contact you if you're picked to win.
To enter, you need to be a US resident and have your comment up by midnight Eastern on July 27th.
Be sure to check back tomorrow. I have another special feature to add to the blog tour, and I think you're all going to love it. Happy Reading!