Karin Slaughter






US Publication title: BEYOND REACH
Random House, July 2007
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith, September 2007

When Detective Lena Adams is arrested in Reece, her home town in Georgia, her boss, police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver, goes to help her, taking his wife medical examiner Sara Linton with him. Sara has problems of her own: she is being sued for medical misdiagnosis after the death of a young patient. The parents, overwhelmed by debt, are looking for someone to pay. Lena has returned to Reece after learning that her uncle, a reformed alcoholic, is using drugs again.

Lena has been discovered by the local police sitting on the ground on the perimeter of a high school sports field, with her foot on a fuel can. On the fifty yard touch line is a burning Cadillac and investigators can see a body charring on the back seat. When Lena won't answer questions or indeed speak at all, she is taken to the hospital, and then charged with obstructing the law. Soon after Jeffrey and Sara arrive, Lena absconds, setting off a chain of events that places them all in great danger.

This is a novel about racism, police corruption, drug addiction and alcoholism. Dealing in speed and other drugs is rife, skinheads rule, and the previous police chief in Reece resigned after his house was fire-bombed. But this is a story about people, how they behave, and what they learn about each other and themselves in extreme circumstances. Karin Slaughter is hard on her characters. Really nasty things happen to them.

One aspect of this novel that may catch the reader unawares is that many events are recounted out of sequence. I found it difficult to get the chronology straight in my mind, and that resulted in a little confusion and some surprises.

SKIN PRIVILEGE is the sixth title in Karin Slaughter's Grant County series and I felt, at times, that I should have read all of the other five, even though there is a considerable amount of "back-story" recounted. Facts half remembered from dipping into earlier titles annoyed me, and I did wonder whether this would worry the reader if this title was the first they had read. Perhaps they won't realise what they've missed, but SKIN PRIVILEGE may send them looking for more.

SKIN PRIVILEGE ends with a punch that I didn't see coming, something that fans won't want to miss.

Sep 2007 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem


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