There are a few plot devices I’ve grown really tired of over the years.One is Our Hero Going Undercover. Another is Our Hero(es) Taken Hostage. Theone I dislike the most is Murdered Girls. I really don’t like watching – or reading about – women being terrorized by brutal men, especially when the Tense Music plays and the Steadicam swoops through the shadows as the murderer tracks his victim.
Karin Slaughter’s books are the exception. She writes about violence against women – and sometimes in such graphic detail that I have to stop reading and take a deep breath – but never, not once, does she do it to thrill. You don’t pass over the violence she describes and turn the page. It stays with you – sticks with you – the way it stays with her victims. It has a physical, psychological impact and KS’s particular talent is to make you feel the effects – short- and long-term – on those victims.
And not forget it.
Or dismiss it.
Pretty Girls is endorsed by Lee Child as a ’hold-your-breath pedal-to-the-metal thriller.’ That’s really misleading. It suggests chases and gunfights and all the excitement of a book by Simon Kernick. This is something different. It is a thriller, and it is gripping, but it’s a slow burn of a book that pulls you in step by step, gradually ratcheting up the tension until you just can’t stop reading. Or forget that what is happening to its fictional victims is something only a fool could say was happening to someone who ‘had it coming.’