Pretty Girls by Karen Slaughter (5 out of 5)
This one is out on September 29, 2015, brought to us by the folks at William Morrow & Co (Harper Collins). The nice people at Harper sent me a copy, for which I am incredibly grateful. Because come September, I will have a book that I can recommend and can guarantee will scare the crap out of anyone who reads it. I am VERY glad that I read this book during the afternoon and early evening hours yesterday. Had I done my usual and read it later, well, I would not have slept well. Warning to those who seek a Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steel type book, this is not the droids you’re looking for. This is a dark look at the human psyche, the twisted morass of love and devotion, and it has a fair amount of violence, which should be no surprise given the subject matter of the book. There were parts when I was open-mouthed with shock, and that doesn’t happen often. But what comes from this is a deeply troubling tale psychological mystery that doesn’t let up one bit, from the beginning to the end. It’s one of those books where you go back and ask yourself multiple times, “Did I just read that? How in the world?”. Another thing I liked besides the cast of many possible suspects were the many turns that I didn’t see coming from any direction throughout the book. It just kept coming, and it didn’t let up. I love books like that. The last one I read this year that was in the same vein was Girl On A Train. I would definitely put Slaughter’s book in that category with my top picks for the year so far.
Claire has a pretty cushy life, but it all comes to a crashing halt when she and her husband Paul are on the receiving end of a robbery and violent assault in an alleyway. Claire has injuries, but the worst possible one is that Paul doesn’t make it, he dies in the alley. Claire is devastated. After the funeral, she goes to spend time at his gravesite, only to find her other sister Lydia pissing on his grave. Literally. After a brief exchange, we find out the two are sisters, who haven’t seen or been in each other’s lives for years- thanks to Paul, as well as the disappearance of their younger sister Julia, tearing them apart. Twenty years apart are the crimes, yet it appears that they are connected somehow. Claire’s house is upended when it’s robbed and things ransacked on the day of Paul’s funeral. Due to the somewhat suspicious activities and questions of the authorities in charge of the case, PLUS an FBI agent who appears demanding things of Paul’s from a grieving Claire, and Lydia jumps to her sister’s defense, immediately suspecting trouble. All, as you can guess, is not what it seems. A cursory examination of Paul’s computer turns up horrifying things that raise all sorts of questions about the sort of man that Claire loved and was married to. Claire tries to get Lydia to go back to Rick, her boyfriend, and Dee, her daughter, and leave her to deal with her dead husband’s litany of secrets, but Lydia stays- and gets caught up in the black widow’s web of lies, violence, and horror that the two sisters uncover. Things spiral downhill quickly, and the two sisters must find a way to figure out who’s good, who’s evil, and who’s going to help them uncover the truth. As things of a horrific nature often drive us apart, so often they also bring us together. That’s the case with the sisters, but when the truth begins to emerge, a HUGE shock comes out of nowhere, and tilts the book upside down. I could not put it down for the last 200 pages, no joke. I guarantee you’ll be hooked as well. Slaughter has woven a web that is not easily navigated, and those characters- wow. I have no idea where she stacked those human characteristics against the inhuman side of some of them, but they play off each other well, in course of the stomach-churning, chilling reality of what lies behind the novel. Wow. Just wow. I can’t tell you enough how much I loved it, and how creeped out I was by a lot of the graphic nature involved with the unravelling of the plot narrative. But you know what that means, right? It means the book is beguiling to the nth degree, and there’s no way in hell it’s getting out of your head that easily. And it will stay with you, because it’s that kind of book. Slaughter has outdone herself with this one.