Book Review: Pretty Girls

Pretty Girls
Published By: William Morrow
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Page Count: 688
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Adult - Thriller, Mystery

Pretty Girls was a little different from the usual Karin Slaughter crime thriller. Her standard procedure is to pick someone in law enforcement as her central character and follow an investigation through. This time, she picked a pair of sisters and stepped away from law enforcement. It was an interesting decision, but I am not sure if it paid off. 

 I feel like it took a lot of time and effort to read through Pretty Girls. Normally I get swept away in the investigation of the crime but here, I felt in the dark for quite a long time because the main character, Claire, was pretty clueless. The book starts off with her husband, Paul, being murdered in front of her, and the plot develops as she starts to realise that he wasn't the perfect guy after all. At the same time, a concurrent storyline with a woman called Lydia is bumbling along. It took quite a while for me to piece together that they were in fact related, and that their older sister, Julia, had disappeared many years before. 

What I found most intriguing about the story was not just about Paul, but the way that Claire and Lydia's family had fallen apart and broken in the wake of Julia's disappearance. Much of the plot was linked to finding out what had happened to Julia, although this was a very slow burning discovery that didn't really interest me that much when I look back on it. The other half of the plot develops after Claire finds some very unsavoury videos on Paul's computer. I had a big issue with these videos as they were essentially snuff movies, and I felt that the description of the events of the film was gratuitous. 

 I am not especially leery of descriptions of graphic violence in books, but I felt that this time the description zoomed past "chilling", hurdled "distasteful" and parked itself right in "verging on obscene". I genuinely couldn't cope with some passages describing what happened to the "Pretty Girls", and found myself feeling very affected by it. I was quite withdrawn for the last few days of reading this book. The book had something very serious to say the type of person who would watch those movies, but by describing them like that, I felt that an unwitting air of hypocrisy drifted in. I think it is probably quite difficult to create just the right climate of fear in a thriller, but I think psychological fear as opposed to outright graphic torture is the way to go. 

 I found it quite hard to related to either Claire or Lydia too, which stopped me connecting with them as characters. Claire was such a pathetic woman, expecting her husband to do everything for her and barely thinking at all; even when she was forced to be resourceful, I felt like slapping her for being so incompetent. Lydia was a little bit more friendly, but again, I couldn't really understand or relate to some of her life choices, so I didn't connect with her. 

 I have found that the past couple of Karin Slaughter offerings have hit wide of the mark that I had come to expect from her, through her early work with the Sara Linton character and later novels featuring Will Trent. This joins the few that I wouldn't really recommend and I think I have only got perhaps one more read like them in me before I move on. Perhaps some readers wouldn't be so off put elements that didn't sit well with me, but even to those readers, I would caution that this is a pretty slow moving novel until about 65% of the way through. It didn't ever call me back to it, and I barely felt satisfied with the outcome, except that it was over. I don't like leaving books halfway through, but it did tempt me to walk away, and if I had, perhaps I wouldn't have these hideous mental images in my head of horrifically brutalised young women.

#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives.

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.