Also as is the case with a lot of serial killers, Will Trent is in many ways not the person he appears to be on the surface; the face he chooses to present to the world, strangers and acquaintances alike, is one carefully constructed to give the appearance of normalcy. In reality, however, Will is anything but normal.
Now 40 years old and a highly successful agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Will still carries the scars, physically and psychologically, of a dark childhood during which he spent most of his time in state foster homes hoping to be adopted. It’s a painful past that, like his dyslexia, he doesn’t reveal to people for fear of the judgment – and pity – he believes they will heap upon him.
One of the few people who knows about Will’s past is his boss and mentor at the GBI, Deputy Director Amanda Wagner. Far from treating Will with kid gloves, Amanda gives Will no quarter, demanding excellence from him at all times and knowing she will get it. Which is why Will is perplexed when Amanda explicitly cuts him out of the case when a young co-ed goes missing from a local college. Little does Will realize that not only does Amanda know things about him he’d prefer others not, she knows things about him that he doesn’t even know about himself.
Criminal, the newest release from Karin Slaughter featuring the melding of her Grant County and Will Trent series, gives readers a healthy dose of something they’ve been after since Will first graced the pages of Triptych: vital information about the mysterious agent’s childhood. Something else Criminal provides, and which readers may not have even been aware they were missing, is a deep look at what makes GBI Deputy Director Amanda Wagner tick. Under Slaughter’s skillful hand it is revealed that the pair’s history overlaps in ways neither Will nor the reader could possibly have imagined.
Interweaving the current case with flashbacks to a series of unsolved murders which took place during Wagner’s rookie year as a plainclothes detective in 1975, Slaughter adds immeasurable layers of nuance to two characters who were already more complex than most you find in crime fiction. It’s a testament to Slaughter’s mastery of pacing that the novel’s 448 page length never feels sluggish or glutted. Rather, through a wonderfully lush depiction Atlanta and its Police Department circa 1975 – complete with racism, sexism, and cronyism run amok – Slaughter transports readers back to an era where it’s easy to see how the steel of someone like Wagner was forged…and why she treats Will the way she does.
For an author to produce one successful series is uncommon. For them to produce two is almost unheard of. Yet not only has Slaughter done just that, she has boldly gone one step farther and blended the two to form something even greater than the sum of its parts. And she just keeps getting better.
Criminal is available from Delacorte Press (ISBN: 978-0345528506).