UNDONE (Grant County) by Karin Slaughter is the follow-up to BEYOND REACH published by Bantam Dell. UNDONE marks the merging of two series by Slaughter – Grant County series and the Will Trent series. Is this the end for the Grant County series?
WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for the Grant County series so if you haven’t read this series or in the middle of reading this series please do not read any further.
Slaughter’s first book in the Grant County series was BLINDSIGHTED (2001). The story captivated me from start to finish. The stories were all set in the fictional town outside of Atlanta, Georgia and featured Dr. Sara Linton who was the town coroner and practicing pediatrician. She often worked criminal cases with her husband, Jeffrey Tolliver, who was chief of police of the small town.
Slaughter is a master when it comes to writing about dysfunction. The people in her stories are almost always flawed or damaged psychologically or physically. If you enjoy character driven suspense stories then Slaughter should be on every mystery reader’s must read list. But you must have a strong stomach because Slaughter holds nothing back when it comes to graphic violence. Especially toward women.
The violence toward women is just one aspect of her stories that I find hard to read. The women in her stories often come across as manipulative, overbearing, bitchy, cold and distant. Dr. Sara Linton embodies most of those characteristics I just listed but she actually lightens up a bit in UNDONE. We get to see her softer side especially since life dealt her a recent blow.
I had guessed correctly about Sara’s future after what happened in BEYOND REACH. In UNDONE, she’s left Grant County and now works in the ER at Grady hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. She still grieves for her husband and slain police officer, Jeffrey Tolliver. She’s also been carrying around in her pocket, an envelope for the past three and a half years that is presumed to be from Jeffrey’s killer. Could it be a confession? Or a letter of absolution?
A mystery is only as good as it’s villain(s) and the one in here was creepy. You have a excavated cave in the middle of the woods that has all kinds of torture devices that has recently claimed two victims. One victim barely escapes with her life after being hit by an elderly couple on the highway late one night and another victim escapes and decides to kill herself rather than to be caught alive if help didn’t arrive first.
Special Agent, Will Trent and his partner, Faith Mitchell, work for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. As we are reminded in each entry, the GBI can only be asked to assist cases that are under local jurisdiction unless there are extenuating circumstances that require them to take over officially. There’s no love lost between the state and local authorities. The rocky relationship between the GBI and the Rockdale police force almost sidetracks the current case especially when two more women have been reported missing.
Most of the story has Faith and Will trying to figure out what’s going on because the killer didn’t leave any clues to follow. The horror and violence these women slash victims endured in the underground cave was just godawful. In one scene, in the emergency room, Dr. Sara Linton makes a puzzling yet grizzly discovery about survivor, Anna Lindley. It kind of makes the perp out to be a religious nut who is a special kind of crazy.
Where the story really shines or grips you is really outside of the mystery. In between interviews, press conferences, autopsies and police politics – yeah, most of these people’s personal lives are a wreck. Makes for good reading, too but then Slaughter is excellent at characterization and dialogue and she doesn’t mind sharing these people’s sex lives either. She can write steamy and she’s awesome with the chemistry.
Starting with Will Trent, he is the polar opposite of Jeffrey Tolliver when it comes to character. Where Jeffrey was aggressive, Will is more laid back. Both men are physically built and strong. Will grew up in the system. His mother hid him away in a trashcan when he was 5 months old. She saved his life when she was killed. Will also has a handicap that can jeopardize his job which I am not going to divulge. I will say that he’s learned to function with it and is adept at hiding it well.
Overall, Will’s seen as a good cop but his personal life is a mess. His wife, ex-cop, Angie Polansky is no good. She often exits and renters his life at a drop of a dime. Angie used to work vice and knows how to pull Will’s strings. The two have a bond since they both grew up together in a group home. She’s not good for him and she keeps him emotionally tethered to her. Will realizes this but can’t seem to detach himself from her.
Briefly, Will and Sara do meet and share an awkward moment together along with an uncomfortable silence when he shares his history with her after they meet a couple of times. Will’s attracted to Sara but that attraction is fleeting for both and wasn’t acted upon, thank goodness. Not sure how I would feel about that but I’m glad that it didn’t go anywhere.
Faith Mitchell is another interesting character but I won’t delve too much into her background. Although she comes off a bit hard and has mood swings, she is very protective of Will, which is why I like her a lot. Sara’s past, the incident with Jeffrey and her family are all mentioned. The hardest part of the story was reading Sara’s grief over Jeffrey’s death.
I was asked recently if I missed Jeffrey by another reader and the answer is yes. I miss his character a lot. But I am glad to have Will Trent because he is so driven, so compassionate and heartbreakingly damaged inside and out. The two men couldn’t be more different.
Lena Adams, who was the first woman on the Grant County police force and who Jeffrey mentored, was surprisingly absent but her presence was alluded to in the story. The outcome of the culprit behind the pipe bomb that killed Jeffrey was also mentioned.
So Slaughter tied up most of her loose ends with the Grant County series. Will we see more of Sara Linton? Probably. Her role in UNDONE was minor compared to Will and Faith’s role in the story. For some readers that might be a disappointment but not for me.
The only criticisms I have about the story pertains to craft as I felt the story did slow down a lot in the middle. Other than that, UNDONE is typical Slaughter which means that the story was captivating. No new ground was broken and she didn’t veer too far away from what she’s been doing. One can’t help but notice that UNDONE wasn’t as tightly plotted as FRACTURED but still this was a very good story with a somewhat weak and long drawn out denouement. B+.
Correction: Series order is No.7 and not No.6. Sorry for the confusion.