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A satisfying conclusion to an excellent series of thrillers
on March 6, 2017
Detective Lena Adams of the Grant County Police is in trouble again. On a visit to her home town, she witnesses the gruesome murder of a friend on the back seat of a car she has been forced to drive. While sitting in shock near the scene of the murder, she is arrested for the crime. The man who was responsible is nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, back in Grant County, Dr. Sara Linton is facing her own brand of trouble. She is facing a malpractice suit by the grief-ridden parents of a young boy whose leukemia had killed him despite all Sara’s efforts. She is pulled out of her guilt and self-doubt only when her husband, Grant County Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver, takes her with him on the long drive to Lena’s home town. They are rushing south through hundreds of miles of rural Georgia to rescue the trouble-prone detective.
Thus opens Karin Slaughter’s Beyond Reach. As the story advances, Lena, Sara, and Jeffrey become involved in a high-tension case involving neo-Nazis, the methamphetamine trade, and police corruption. Once again, Slaughter delivers a convincing tale grounded in the sad reality of many rural counties across America. Her command of plotting and character development is accomplished. And few writers can equal her ability to build suspense to a fever pitch—and then continue to surprise at the very end.
Karin Slaughter’s writing in context
How many murders and other atrocities can you cram into one small town and continue to persuade readers to suspend disbelief? Surely, there’s a limit. Louise Penny long ago passed that limit with the murder mysteries she placed in the Quebec village of Three Pines. There are 13 books to date in the Inspector Armand Gamache series of detective novels, which I found hard to swallow after reading three. I found the same problem with Donna Leon‘s detective novels set in the small town of Venice. There are 26 in her Commissario Guido Brunetti series. I gave up after four or five.
This isn’t just a problem for readers. It’s difficult for the writers as well. If you read the latest entries in either of these series and compare them to the earliest novels, you may find that the author’s boredom shows clearly. But that’s not the case with every thriller author. Karin Slaughter is one of the exceptions.
Karin Slaughter has written 23 crime thrillers. In addition to 10 Will Trent novels and six standalone books, there are six that constitute the Grant County series. Dr. Sara Linton and Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver operate in one small Georgia county. (Georgia’s 10 million people are spread among 159 counties, of which Grant must be one of the smallest. That doesn’t leave a lot of latitude for shocking crimes to be committed there.) Beyond Reach is the sixth. At that point, the series clearly had run its course: Slaughter ran out of characters to rape, torture, murder, or expose their secrets. (She has written no additional novels in the series in the past 10 years, so I’m assuming there will be no more.) It’s refreshing to read an author who doesn’t overdo a good thing.