114 of 119 people found the following review helpful
For years, Karin Slaughter has been tantalizing us with bits and pieces of Will Trent's history. Followers of Slaughter's popular series know that Will is an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He is dyslexic, scarred physically and psychologically from years in an orphanage and on the streets, and barely made it out of his hellish childhood intact. An ill-advised marriage to a fellow orphan, Angie, has brought Will additional misery. Even though he is still Angie's husband, Will has fallen for pediatrician Sara Linton; Sara cares for him, as well, but she wonders if she can truly be close to a man who has so much emotional baggage. Slaughter's audience knows Sara intimately as a beautiful and brilliant physician and medical examiner who played a prominent role in earlier books.
In "Criminal," Slaughter tells her story in alternating chapters, some of which take place in 1974-75. In the opening scene, we meet a group of wretched female drug addicts. They are at the mercy of a brute who sells their bodies on the street and keeps most of the money they earn for himself. Nineteen-year-old Lucy Bennett started her habit when she took speed to lose weight. She graduated to "injectable amphetamine" and everything spiraled downward from there. Now, she feels as if "she'd swallowed a truckload of concrete" and her hair has been falling out in clumps. Her plight is particularly heartrending since she had once been a good student with a bright future. Now, she is just another streetwalker with dead eyes.
Slaughter places us squarely in Atlanta's underbelly: We witness the unspeakable torture and slaying of helpless women as well as the racism, sexism, and corruption that infected the city's police department in the mid-seventies. The changes that would eventually free women and African-Americans from years of subservience were just beginning.
At the heart of the novel is a shadowy and hulking figure who is obsessed with controlling the prostitutes whom he abducts. On his trail are twenty-five year old Amanda Wagner (Will's current boss) and her colleague, the "pushy and opinionated" Evelyn Mitchell. Both pound pavements, interview witnesses, and resolve to help those who have no one willing to fight for them. Their colleagues are mostly chauvinistic males who taunt and threaten them, but Amanda and Evelyn persist in doing their jobs under difficult circumstances.
This is a suspenseful, hard-hitting, and complex police procedural that provides a vivid portrait of a southern city in transition. Although the subject matter is often distasteful and depressing, Slaughter holds our interest by providing fragments of the truth but withholding the ways in which these fragments fit together. It is not until the final pages that the author ties up the story's dangling threads. "Criminal" is sordid, at times heavy-handed, and a bit drawn out, but it also a chilling, powerful, and poignant tale of hatred, revenge, insanity, compassion, and love.
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2012
The title of my review was taken from the novel CRIMINAL by Karin Slaughter.
A literary tree was planted in her first thriller BLINDSIGHTED with the tangled roots of Sara Linton, small-town pediatrician and her ex husband Jeffrey Tolliver, sherriff of Heartsdale, Georgia.
The twisted branches grew strong with the likes of Jeff's friend Lena Adams and an assortment of diseased characters feeding off the basis of Sara and Jeff's relationship.
From those branches grasping for a place in the heart of darkness bloom Will Trent, Faith Mithcell and Amanda Wagner,all an integral part of the mind of one of the finest mystery writers I have ever read.
Instead of delving into the plot(s) of CRIMINAL without giving any red herrings away or 'spoiler alerts' I wish to give my observations of what drives myself (in my opinion) and her readers to wait with controlled anticipation for her next thriller to be published.
If one is 'not' a Karin Slaughter novice then one knows about her ability to create such flesh and blood characters when something bad or evil happens to them your gut tightens and you are driven to continue reading and hope for a better outcome.
That is truly a rare gift!
IN CRIMINAL Ms. Slaughter weaves two mysteries together thirty five years apart.
1975 is re-imagined with all the sights, smells and everyday functions that only a great writer could accomplish.
From how women detectives were treated to how they interacted with each other.
Lastly, one of the most sastisfying endings of any thriller I have read in the past year!!!
Jim Munchel/Books A Million, Harrisburg, Pa.
54 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2012
I eagerly anticipate every single book by Karin Slaughter, and she's never let me down when it comes to Will Trent and Sara Linton--and after last year's fantastic Fallen, I was really excited to read her new book. Criminal is, however, my least favorite book by this author yet, and the first book in the Georgia series that I've rated less than 4 stars. After thoroughly enjoying each of the previous (12?) novels in this series, it's something of a shock to find myself with such mixed/negative feelings about this one.
The two things that normally make Karin Slaughter books so damned good are crackling, suspenseful mysteries and strong characters that you passionately care about. In Criminal, those elements are woefully obscured by the book's structure (too many POVs, many of which are too long for secondary characters), too much focus on Amanda Wagner's past (which sounded like such a great idea, except that she's much less compelling and sympathetic as a young rookie), and a serious lack of time spent on the central characters we've come to know. The starts and stops of the many, many characters POVs make for a jumbled narrative and a frustrating reading experience, and they detract from both the cleanness of the plotting and any emotional response we might've had to the characters. I'm frankly very surprised that a Slaughter book would be this messy.
Eventually, the central mystery is an interesting one, if a bit on the predictable side. The little we see of the Will/Sara/Angie dynamic continues to be fascinating. The flashback sections that took place in the 70s did provide a few good things: it was kind of neat to see Evelyn Mitchell's early career since we all know how it later turns out, a bit about Will's early beginnings, and through Amanda, it was interesting to read about how female police officers were treated back then. But the issues of discrimination, as well as so many others, were done with a much less expert hand than I'm used to seeing in Slaughter's books. Even the level and detail of the violence, which the author's been criticized for and I've never had a problem with before, seemed unnecessarily extra brutal and verging on salacious here. For the first time in reading this author's work, I felt serious twinges of distaste as I read about various extremely violent crimes inflicted upon the victims; it's not what happens, as I've read similar levels of violence or worse, it's the repetitive way these things are presented to us, without the appropriate subsequent gravity and care to balance it out. When I think about the awful thing that happens to Lena's sister in the very first Slaughter book and how well the author handled both the procedural and emotional effects of that, I am especially surprised at how clumsily heavy-handed this new book seems to be.
So I would just say that if you're considering reading this series, definitely don't start with this one. They should be read in order anyway , and the others are much, much better. I'm still a big fan of this author's work, but for the first time, I'm going to be anticipating the next one with muted expectations. Fingers crossed she returns to her usual excellent form next year.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2012
** Contains SPOILERS of previous books in the `Grant County' and 'Will Trent/Atlanta' series **
Atlanta, 1974. Lucy Bennett is a good girl gone bad, turning tricks on the street with the other no-hope whores. Then a man comes along. He knows her name. He wants to save her.
Present day. Will Trent and Sara Linton are a tentative three weeks into their new relationship. There's the small problem of Will's ex-cop wife, Angie, leaving vaguely threatening post-it notes on Sara's car. And the fact that Will has built a tall fortress around his heart and refuses to discuss his terrible childhood spent in foster homes, on the street or in the bad part of town, in a place called Techwood. But Sara has felt an undeniable pull towards Will ever since she first met him, something she finds somewhat miraculous since the tragic death of her husband.
Atlanta 1975. Officers Amanda Wagner and Evelyn Mitchell are sent to investigate a rape in Techwood; a notorious apartment complex full of prostitutes, pimps and people with too little money to get the hell out. When the women arrive they find a flying-high prostitute and a whole lot of trouble, but no rape victim.
Present day. Will Trent is working a dud soliciting case at the airport, punishment for something meaningless from his superior in the Georgia Bureau, Amanda Wagner. And then a new case makes headlines in the city - a young woman is missing. She looks eerily familiar to Will . . . and when all clues lead to Techwood, he knows why.
`Criminal' is the fourth book in Karin Slaughter's immensely popular `Will Trent/Atlanta' crime series.
It's that time of year again - when I pick up the latest Karin Slaughter and wander the streets of Atlanta with some of my all-time favourite characters. Oh, how I have missed the likes of Will Trent, Faith Mitchell and Amanda Wagner of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. And, of course, everybody's favourite Sara Linton whose trek from the original `Grant County' series was officially solidified in her romance with Will in third book, `Fallen'.
Something I really enjoyed in the last `Will Trent/Atlanta' instalment was Slaughter's small glimpses into what the 1970's police force was like for female offices. In `Fallen', we learnt more about Amanda Wagner and Evelyn Mitchell, through their reminiscing about the early days in the force when there was no such thing as `sexual harassment' and the black officers didn't even have a precinct building. I was really fascinated by the tidbits Amanda shared, so was delighted to learn that in `Criminal', Slaughter would be taking us back to the 1970's, as a present-day investigation has echoes of the past . . .
Amanda Wagner is in her early 20's when we meet her in 1975. She is the daughter of Duke Wagner, a veteran of the Atlanta police force who has recently been fired, along with many other white senior officers, when a new (black) chief is appointed and does a shake-up of the totem pole. Though she is police royalty around these parts, Amanda knows her place in the hierarchy - and that is bottom of the rung. The colored and white officers may be at constant logger-heads, with barely-restrained tension wafting through the office . . . but the men are all united in one thing; their disdain of skirts in uniform. Sure, female officers are given equal pay and they wear the same uniform (exact same - down to their men's shoes) but catcalls are their morning greeting at roll-call, Amanda is expected to write reports for her lazy superior and avoiding a game of grab-ass with whoever her partner is for the day is just part of the job. Evelyn Mitchell is a different story. She's happily married to an understanding man, and she has a baby boy at home. But after a year or so on maternity leave she's back, and none of the other female officers can understand why, exactly. Sometimes Evelyn doesn't really know why either; like all the other women, she hates the way she's treated by the men, though she can't even dream of a day when things will be different or better. And then something unusual happens. Evelyn and Amanda are assigned together, on a job that takes them to Techwood and down a rabbit hole of intrigue. . .
The 1970's Atlanta police force was a God-awful place, as Slaughter brilliantly details. It was a hot-bed for sexism and racism, a veritable jungle where white men ruled and everyone else was just fodder. Slaughter dipped into this in `Fallen', when she explained that it wasn't until 1962 that black officers were even allowed to arrest white suspects. But with `Criminal' being partly set in 1975, Slaughter is able to go into the nitty-gritty truths of what it was like back then. And it was not pretty, at all. For one thing, it wasn't too long ago that the Klan was running the Atlanta police force - it was compulsory for officers to join the Klan upon entering the force, and paying their dues to them same as they did the Fraternal Order of Police. Even after black officers joined the force many of the higher-up officers (Amanda's father included) kept their affiliation with the Klan; she puts it down to their German roots, but it's also simply the fact that it's what they know, their tradition. Slaughter writes the warfare between colored and white officers as always at boiling-point, with the potential to tip over at any second.
But the barely-restrained hatred between white and colored officers is nothing compared to what the women put up with. Quite a few times Amanda or Evelyn touch on the feminist and Women's movement going on around them (Gloria Steinem is a prominent figure by this point, with Germaine Greer slowly gaining recognition). But none of that affects the Atlanta police department. Sexual harassment is rife, and none of the women are seen as being proper officers. I expected all of that, to be honest. But what I found really chilling was the way the women just take it, as par for the course. I loved Slaughter's characterization of a young Amanda Wagner - having only known her as the present-day head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, it was a total head-spin to read her as this meek 20-something officer. Amanda joined the force, mostly, because her daddy was a cop and she wanted to be one too. When we meet her she pushes down her irritations and hurt at the way the male officers treat her - and she doesn't even stand up for her fellow female officers when the sexual harassment comes frighteningly close to sexual assault. But throughout the course of `Criminal', and during a life-changing investigation, Slaughter slowly puts the pieces of Amanda's puzzle together . . . we read how she and Evelyn rise above their stations, and we catch glimpses of the tough old girls they will one day become. It is glorious.
`Criminal' flips between 1975, during Amanda and Evelyn's investigation into a slew of prostitution deaths, to present-day Will Trent and Sara Linton navigating their new relationship when a missing-person case side-lines them, and opens old wounds.
I really liked the switching between 1975 and present-day, and I feel like Slaughter really concentrated on character-building during her present-day chapters. `Criminal' is, without a doubt, Will's book. I refuse to give anything away, but this is the novel in which readers and Sara learn all about Will's terrible past and why he is the way he is. . . and I loved that. I always say that what keeps me coming back to Slaugher's series' is the messy but fascinating lives of her protagonists -and I feel like I got those delicious complications in spades for Sara and Will in `Criminal'. I thought that at the end of `Fallen', with the reappearance of Will's crazy wife Angie, that `Criminal' would have a larger focus on her as a complication for Will and Sara's new relationship. But I can now see that there was a lot more that Sara had to know about Will's childhood before Slaughter could start dealing with his current romantic predicaments . . . but I will say that I have high-hopes that the next `Will Trent/Atlanta' book will have a big focus on those very predicaments.
`Criminal' was an incredible instalment in Slaughter's addictive series. In this fourth book that switches between past and present Atlanta, we read about the case which shaped Amanda Wagner and Evelyn Mitchell into the powerful women they would one day become. And we discover how Will's past has been plaguing and holding power over him since childhood, likewise determining the man he has become.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2012
I've read all of the books related to Sara Linton and Will Trent and when this one arrived, I simply couldn't put it down. Absolutely loved it. There were so many twists and turns that could not be predicted, right up to the very end. Learning about Will Trent's mystery past, Amanda's history and the difficulty of serving as a woman police officer after the Civil Rights movement was fascinating.
The quality of many authors' books often diminishes with a series related to one or two characters, but Karin Slaughter's writing only seems to get better!
I hope she can continue to write about Sara and Will, as the development of their characters just keeps getting better. If you like mysteries, I believe you can't find better ones than Karin Slaughter's books.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Karin Slaughter delivers a Masterpiece of love, loyalty, and murder that would light the Big screen. A riveting story of two brutal murders, flashback of forty years, and hidden secrets. This bone-chilling crime novel grabs your attention in the very beginning with characters who come to life. Edge-of-your-seat intense suspense that will have you craving for more. Highly Recommended for all mystery and thriller lovers!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
"Criminal" is a tale of lives interwoven over a forty year period of time. It is about murder - multiple murders, actually, some in the past, some in the present - about love, and about finding out who you are as a person. The action takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, with a sharp focus on the culture of the time, with emphasis on race and gender. One of the main characters, Amanda Wagner, was one of the first women to enter the Atlanta Police Department. Her father spent his working life there, which may or may not be a good thing for Amanda. Their relationship truly moves this story along. One of Amanda's first cases was a brutal crime, in one of the worst sections of town. That case is now coming back to haunt her.
Will Trent is an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He was born during the time that Amanda was conducting the investigation that launched her career. Why is she keeping him away from the current investigation? Why has his career path followed hers? Is he going to be ab le to leave his troubled past behind him - and just what does Amanda know about that past? Is he going to be able to hold on to his new romance? Will his wife - who is part of his past - let him go?
Love, greed, brutality, the old boys network - these all play a part in this incredible story. There are layers upon payers here - relationships of the characters with themselves, and with each other. How the past creates the future is very well presented here. There are some graphic scenes, but that is the nature of this type of story.
The characters are complex, the story line well written. The part that race and gender played in our recent history is very well presented. The world that is presented here did exist, and is very much a part of how we got where we are now. That a human being could commit the crimes portrayed in this book is mind boggling! Slaughter presents everyone's story well - the victim's. the police department's, the rougher areas of town, prostitution, the pimps, the street in general - they all have their place.
If you are looking for a fast moving story with some depth to it - this book is for you!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2012
Will Trent, agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (and one of my favorite Karin Slaughter creations), to a duty that no agent wants. Meanwhile, his boss, Amanda Wagner, seems determined to keep him away from the case of a missing girl. Amanda is nothing if good at keeping secrets, and Will has just about had enough, but of course that doesn't stop Amanda from doing her best to close him out. Amanda Wagner is one of the most infuriating characters in this series, but in Criminal, we get a look into what made her who she is, and it was absolutely fascinating. Amanda became a cop in mid-seventies Atlanta, and it wasn't a good time for women in general, much less women in the boys' club that was law enforcement. Mostly relegated to secretarial work, women had to put up with near constant verbal abuse, and sometimes physical abuse, and were never taken seriously as investigators. In fact, according to the author, during her research she found out that many calls were made claiming that women were stealing squad cars, because the thought of a woman being a cop just didn't enter anyone's mind. The narrative of Criminal goes back and forth between 1975 and present day, and the bodies are piling up. Prostitutes are being killed in horrible ways, and Will is connected to the case very intimately.
I am a huge fan of this series, and it just keeps getting better. Criminal is Amanda and Will's story, and it's a surprising one. The author paints a very sympathetic portrait of a character who, so far, has not garnered much sympathy. Her attachment to Will is explained, and her tumultuous beginning in law enforcement is nothing short of fascinating. Will is just as frustrating as always (but you can't help but love him), and his tragic past is also explored here. Sara Linton has a hand in Trent's emotional progress, and their romance is very tender and sweet. However, Ms. Slaughter is no stranger to darkness, and Criminal is one of her darkest books yet. The crimes are unspeakable, and sometimes difficult to read, but there is never anything gratuitous about these stories, and they only serve to highlight the humanity of her protagonists, as they fight to stop the most gruesome of criminals. If you love crime novels with characters you'll fall in love with and stories that will keep you riveted, start with Blindsighted and work your way through. You won't regret it!
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2012
I have read all of Karin Slaughter's books. About a quarter of the way through "Criminal," I put it to rest. It just seemed that the characters' lives, past and present, were getting in the way of a good story. I think this can happen when an author becomes wedded to a continuing story/soap opera-like. I found this true of Linda Fairstein's latest book too. I found myself saying "Who cares?" Some mystery writers like Michael Connelly can continue to write refreshing, new mysteries with the same main character, in his case, Harry Bosch. But I regret to say that I found myself saying "Who cares?" again with Slaughter's latest. She's an excellent writer in her genre. I wish she'd leave the Sara/Will/Amanda crew behind and write a fresh, from scratch story for her next novel. The ole Georgia crew is getting tiresome.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2012
A Georgia Tech student has gone missing and Will Trent's pushy boss Amanda is keeping him off the case--and, flashing back to 1974, a serial killer is kidnapping and torturing prostitutes. Of course, it's all related.
This latest volume in the Karin Slaughter cycle is riveting from the first paragraph to the final elegiac scene. Fans of the series will find themselves engrossed as Evelyn and Amanda fight their way onto the Atlanta police force despite the rampant misogyny of the '70s.
CRIMINAL answers a lot of questions about how Will Trent came to be. He continues to be one of the most intriguing characters in crime fiction today.
CRIMINAL is absolutely horrifying on many levels. The villain is stunningly perverse. The violence is off the charts. Combine that with an unvarnished view of Atlanta as it struggles to join the modern century. For those of us who lived through that time, especially as southerners, reading CRIMINAL can be a distinctly uncomfortable experience. Racism and misogyny were part of the day-to-day landscape of that time, and Slaughter captures it in vivid detail.
It may be the best of the entire series.