Karin Slaughter is known for her intricately plotted mysteries, which usually contain graphic depictions of violent crimes, most often against women. In Undone, she continues to alarm and enmesh the reader, this time with a villain whose aversion to and lust for the female sex causes him to blind his victims so they can’t see their fates, and perform an act of surgery (without anesthesia) which ultimately gives his pursuers a clue to his identity.
If readers can get past the harsh details of the crimes Slaughter depicts—and since she’s an international bestseller, obviously millions can—then Undone is just what the doctor ordered. The doctor in this case is Sara Linton, who in previous books has seen her police chief husband, the man she believes to be her one true love, murdered before her eyes. Trying to put the past behind her, she has moved to Atlanta where she is now head of emergency medicine at Grant County Medical Hospital.
Sara is on duty when the first victim is brought to the emergency room after being hit by a car while escaping her captor. Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents Will Trent and Faith Mitchell, last seen in Fractured, are also first-hand witnesses to the arrival of the tortured and traumatized victim. Faith has fainted while at work and Will, her partner, has brought her to the hospital. Will heads out to the scene of the accident; Faith fumes because she has been left behind. However, she soon finds out she has some major problems of her own to deal with, specifically diabetes, which means a major lifestyle change and the possibility of being chained to a desk—a fate worse than death for Faith. Plus she’s pregnant by her now departed boyfriend.
Slaughter does a masterful job of weaving the personal lives of her characters with their professional responsibilities. Sarah is using her work as a doctor to keep from dealing with her husband’s death. Will, due to profound dyslexia, cannot read, a condition he is desperate to hide from his co-workers. Nor does he get much comfort at home, since his wife spends the majority of her time in other men’s beds.
Slaughter gives her characters tremendous depth of character, making them totally believable. Readers appreciate their quirks, share their angst, savor their interactions with each other. Slaughter says her fans often ask ,“Is this real?” It’s not hard to understand why—her writing makes it feel that way.
Perhaps that’s one reason why her books can be so unsettling. It’s disturbing to read about the truly evil villain at the heart of this fast-paced thriller. One cannot help but think, “What if that happened to me?”
For readers who like their suspense as gritty and violent as a real-life crime spree, Slaughter's Undone is a sure winner.
Rebecca Bain writes from Nashville.