Karin Slaughter excels again with Unseen, the eighth book in the Will Trent detective series.
Most of the story takes place in Macon, Georgia, where Will Trent, Special Agent of the Georgia FBI, is now dating Sara Linton, a doctor and widow of a police officer. Will is currently working undercover as an ex-con. He is attempting to penetrate a drug ring and discover the identity of the notorious but well-protected crime boss “Big Whitey.” As the story opens, Will manages to stop a planned hit on policewoman Lena Adams, the detective who was in charge of a recent drug bust. Lena’s husband Jared was critically wounded in the attempt.
Complicating matters is the fact that Jared is the son of Sara’s dead husband Jeffrey, who was also Lena’s partner at the time Jeffrey was killed. This results in an uneasy confrontation between Lena and Sara, since Sara still blames Lena for Jeffrey’s death. Moreover, Sara has no idea that Will is involved with Lena and Jared.
As Jared fights for his life, Will risks his own trying to bring down the people who did this. And Big Whitey is still at large, wreaking havoc in ways even the police didn’t anticipate.
Discussion: The fact that Sara still can’t forgive Lena for the death of her husband Jeffrey (who was Lena’s partner at the time), is ridiculous and annoying, and yet it is absolutely plausible. I also find very believable the insecurity and equivocation between Will and Sara, especially because Will’s job necessitates his keeping secrets from Sara and even lying to her. Sara’s reaction? Unreasonable, and so true-to-life!
Similar to the ways in which Slaughter’s previous excellent book provides us with background on Atlanta in the 1970’s, this book takes us on a sociological tour of Macon, Georgia, and shows us just how and why it differs from Atlanta. The author has a way of incorporating these details to make them relevant and interesting rather than didactic or distracting.
Evaluation: I have said many times I hate stories that involve drugs, and I hate stories that talk about abuse of women and/or children. Slaughter includes all of this, but she is so compassionate and caring in her treatment of these subjects; so expressive of outrage and sadness over the continued existence of these problems; and so gripping and intelligent in her plot intricacies that I absolutely love her books. I put her on a par with Jo Nesbo for smart thriller writing that is consistently engaging and often gripping. But Slaughter also adds a great deal of heart and a sensitivity to concerns of women that make this a must-read series for me.
Can it be read as a standalone? I’m not sure; I forgot a lot of details from previous books, and I found myself wishing I remembered more, but that’s perhaps because I have come to “know” the characters and feel invested in them. I don’t think these books could not be read by themselves, although I think they are more enjoyable in sequence.
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House, Inc., 2013