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Review: ‘The Last Widow’ by Karin Slaughter

Official Thrillerfix Review

16 August 2019

Release Date: August 20, 2019 |  Review by Gavin Reese

“I have a new favorite crime author, and she might have just written the perfect detective thriller.” – Gavin Reese

"One month after the mysterious kidnapping of an infectious disease researcher, multiple detonations shatter the serenity of an Atlanta Sunday afternoon. Bombs have ravaged one of the city’s busiest and most important neighborhoods, home to Emory University, two major hospitals, the local FBI field office, and the Centers for Disease Control. Special Agent Will Trent and Medical Examiner Sara Linton, who are partners and investigators for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene to help the wounded. They soon find themselves forced into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy many thousands of innocent lives. After the assailants abduct Sara, Will risks his life to go undercover and attempt to infiltrate the group, prevent a massacre, and save the woman and country he loves."

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve only recently been turned on to the Karin Slaughter Show. I knew her name and that of Will Trent, but I never read one of her books. It turns out I’ve unknowingly punished myself all these years. Her latest release, THE LAST WIDOW, is the 9th Will Trent installment and follows a three-year hiatus in this series. Despite that, the book reads perfectly well as a standalone and serves as a good entry point for new readers. Karin and her characters gave me all the details I needed about the relevant history of these heroes, their past escapades, foibles, and vulnerabilities. I expected to spend most of a week going through the book with a critical eye, but Karin’s crisp, razor-sharp writing combined with incredible pacing, intensity, and perpetual forward motion to compelled me to finish in only two days. 

The story drew me in from the first paragraph and held my imagination hostage for roughly 48 hours. Each chapter demanded I turn the page to find out what happened next. Karin masterfully kept up the suspense throughout.

I admired how accurately Karin conveyed various aspects of this story, such as the police investigation, cop personalities and personal conflicts, interagency rivalries, victim behavior and manipulation, and criminal psychology and motivation. I also appreciated how well she elevated the characters’ relatability by exposing aspects of their private lives that we all share and understand, but rarely discuss outside our bedrooms and inner monologues. More than anything else, I loved that Karin never sacrificed the story or its pacing to do so. 

Much of THE LAST WIDOW is told from the perspective of Sara Linton, a medical examiner who’s one of the series main characters. Karin easily placed me inside Sara’s head, showed me what she felt and experienced, and perfectly captured the expertise, sentiment, and personality I would expect such a person to have. Through Sara and the circumstances she’s made to witness, Karin reminds us there are fates worse than death and that our moral salvation can hang in the balance, precariously dependent on the outcome of our choices. 

A few of the characters occasionally express themselves in colorful language, but its inclusion fits their needs at the time, accentuates the emotions of that moment, and adds just the right emphasis to put the reader and their fellow characters on notice that playtime is over. 

One of the novel’s most important aspects for me, though, was its roots in the trials and tribulations of modern society. Through her fictional work, Karin casts a shining beacon on some of our greatest dilemmas. Along the way, she accurately reveals how those realities impact criminal investigations, the public, and those who’ve sworn their lives to serve and protect us. Having finally treated myself to Karin’s work, you can rest assured I’ll have to go back to where this series began. I hope another three years won’t pass before the next Will Trent & Sara Linton story, as I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment. 

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THRILLERFIX ALL-STAR REVIEWER: A former law enforcement officer, Gavin Reese wrote his first six crime thrillers between patrol shifts. An author, thriller aficionado, and podcast host, Gavin has interviewed some of the top names in the genre.  If you enjoy novels with authentic cops, crimes, and criminals, you'll want to follow Gavin Reese's book recommendations here on the Thrillerfix blog.

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