Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

“A missing girl. A hope never lost. A killer never found.”

Pretty GirlsHaving heard great reviews about Slaughter’s writing, I was keen to pick one of her novels up; after reading it, I can see why! This is not a short novel, in fact, at 533 pages it’s a bit of a commitment, yet I seemed to fly through this book faster than any other I’ve read recently.

Over 20 years ago, Lydia and Claire Carroll’s older sister, Julia, vanished without a trace. Their lives were forever changed. Now strangers to each other, Lydia is a single mother, recovering addict and struggling to make ends meet, while Claire is the opposite; living a life of luxury as a wife to a millionaire. Both seem wrapped up in their own lives, until a teenage girl goes missing again and secrets are beginning to be uncovered. Forming a truce, the sisters unite to try and solve the mystery of this missing girl in the hopes that it’ll solve their own…

Almost as soon as I picked this novel up, I was engrossed. There are plot twists left, right and centre throughout, which makes for a very turbulent ride through the narrative, and a nice change from the classic “one plot twist right at the end of the book” formula that so many writers seem to use. By building up the narrative in this way, readers are hooked from the outset and willing the plot forward right up to the last cathartic moment.

I won’t pretend that the narrative wasn’t disturbing, but this is surely what makes a thriller so intense. I was shocked and yet read on. That said, in spite of a story that I couldn’t relate to, I found myself really rooting for the characters, not only in their solving of the mystery, but in the recovery of their relationships and family ties. Alongside the twists and turns, there were moments of real tenderness, particularly in the diary entries of Sam Carroll, which is a rare gift from a writer of the thriller genre, and is what makes Slaughter, in my opinion, such a good writer.

“My favourite photograph is from your first birthday. Your mother and I were far more excited than you were, though you were generally a happy baby. To you, this birthday was just another day. Nothing remarkable except the cake, which you immediately destroyed with your fists.”

Tense, twisted and thrilling, this is some of the best suspenseful writing I’ve read in a long time and I can’t wait to read something else by Karin Slaughter!


Star rating: *****