"Pretty Girls" (William Morrow), by Karin Slaughter
The corrosive effects of a crime destroy a family's security, plunging them into a morass of grief from which there is no escape. But despite the love that unites them, tragedy can break those bonds, as Karin Slaughter illustrates in "Pretty Girls," her latest novel.
The Carrolls of Atlanta never recovered from the devastation when 19-year-old Julia disappeared near her University of Georgia dorm in 1991. Sam Carroll retreated from the family, ignoring his two other daughters and focusing on his own investigation before he committed suicide. Helen Carroll kept Julia's room untouched. Sisters Lydia Delgado, now a single mother and recovering drug addict, and Claire Scott, the pampered wife of architect Paul Scott, haven't spoken in more than 20 years. However, their rift wasn't caused by Julia's disappearance; it happened because Claire refused to believe Lydia's accusations that Paul had tried to molest her.
Then Paul is murdered in front of Claire, who is injured in the attack. As Claire begins to look into Paul's belongings, she uncovers a side to her husband she didn't know existed. And her estranged sister is the only person who can help her uncover the truth to his vast array of secrets.
Slaughter guides "Pretty Girls" into an in-depth look at a family forever defined by its tragedy. Each time a young woman is reported missing, Julia's survivors feel as if their own emotional wounds have been reopened. As Claire delves into Paul's background, she begins to realize how little she knew him. Bit by bit, he isolated her from family and friends without her knowing it. Their sleek, ultra-modern Atlanta mansion becomes a metaphor for a cold, calculating husband.
Slaughter keeps the tension high as "Pretty Girls" alternatively follows Lydia and Claire and the letters their father wrote to Julia, documenting his endless search for his missing child and pinpointing when savagery entered their lives. Slaughter's unflinching descriptions of violence are never gratuitous but are not for the faint of heart.
The author's trademark of complex plots coupled with character studies makes "Pretty Girls" another standout.