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1.0 out of 5 starsAll I can say is that if you enjoy reading about young women being tortured
Reviewed in the United States on January 14, 2018
This book was suggested to me by Amazon, most likely because I had read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. After reading the description, I thought I'd give it a try. All I can say is that if you enjoy reading about young women being tortured, mutilated, and murdered, this may be the book for you. I personally was horrified by the graphic details Karin Slaughter felt were necessary and even more so by her publisher for not having the book edited drastically. The story line was weak and the book repulsed me. I wanted to make sure Paul got his comeuppance; otherwise I would have thrown it away. I've never read anything by Ms. Slaughter before and am certainly not going to waste my time with her books again. There is too much good literature available to bother with a book this disturbing.
4.0 out of 5 starsWell Written Psychological Thriller
Reviewed in the United States on August 10, 2017
This was my first Karin Slaughter book and I went into with a little trepidation based on some of the reviews I read regarding the content of the story and plot details. However, at the end of it all, I was glad I went ahead and read this book since it ended up being a very well written psychological murder suspense thriller.
While the book did start off slowly, with establishing the backgrounds of Lydia, Claire and the disappearance of Julia and its effects on the family. But once the story and plot started moving, the pace and entertainment level ratcheted up. You become engrossed into the story and made you want to find out how everything gets resolved. While some of the details and content of the plot is disturbing (especially if you’re a female), it’s nothing so out there that I haven’t read with other thriller suspense novels and isn’t something that should turn you away from this book.
Looking back on this read, while this is a murder suspense thriller, it’s more of a psychological thriller. That complaint I had earlier about the slow start and information building? It served a bigger purpose in that it established the foundation on which the suspense and thrill is built upon. Learning about Lydia, Claire, and their family before and after Julia’s disappearance made you emotionally invested in them and how dysfunctional they all became after the loss of Julia. Once you come to understand them, you in turn understand the severity of all the revelations that you come to learn about Julia’s disappearance and the personal nature of it. It’s where the tension and suspense comes from more so than from the actual crime as horrible as it is. And in the end, this is really a story about a family who has suffered greatly from a loss and the unknown status of a missing loved one. Without Slaughter writing a compelling family dynamic, the overall story wouldn’t have worked.
While there are certain aspects of the story that I would question (e.g. the extent of the cover up and participants in a small town) as a whole I thought this was a smart, suspenseful and engrossing read. It was well-written and, aside from the beginning, was nicely paced. The book didn’t follow any kind of formulaic thread you would expect from a psychological thriller. While there is an overall disappearance/murder/conspiracy umbrella plot, its heart lays in the complex and complicated nature of a family who is still suffering the effects of missing a loved one and trying to find closure.
5.0 out of 5 starsHowever I like I said I couldn't put it down as I ...
Reviewed in the United States on October 4, 2017
This book was a page turner, I couldn't put it down but I think the write ups should mention something about the subject matter. It's certainly not for everyone and I think that needs to be explained if possible without giving anything away. It's not for the faint hearted. We were going to read this for book club but I pulled it before most people started because I knew some wouldn't be able to read it. However I like I said I couldn't put it down as I wanted to see how everything turned out. If you enjoy Crime Scene Investigation episodes then you're good to go, but if you find that program disturbing then don't read this book.
1.0 out of 5 starsI tried so hard to like this book
Reviewed in the United States on November 3, 2017
Sisters. Strangers. Survivors. I'd sooner change the tag line to: Volatile. Vapid. Very Lucky. I tried so hard to like this book, I tried to like the characters, the plot, the mystery and it somehow managed to fail on all 3 counts. I hate giving one star ratings, not because I feel that one can't dislike a book that much, rather I feel that others tend to look at them as more 'gut reactions' rather than having substance, thus I will endeavor to critique this book fairly and honestly.
I want to get this out of the way. My opinion of this book has nothing to do with the subject matter. It is dark, it is graphic, it would be visceral if written better, but I set out reading this book looking for horror, for something to usher in Halloween 2017. To be clear, the subject matter is not on the table. This is what the author chose to write about and I chose to read, so no problems there just know that it is not for the faint of heart so tread carefully if you decide it's something for you.
Let's start with the major theme: family. sisterhood. relationships. This story is set around a family of three girls, one of which was stolen away in the early 90s. We the reader are left to deal with the aftermath. Drugs, obsession, withdrawal, every family member has a different way of coping and we are left to sort through the mess left of their lives post tragedy. At first glance, not bad. My problem comes in with the relationship between the two main characters and remaining sisters, Lydia and Claire. They haven't spoken in years, they live their own lives and yet they are thrown in an impossible situation that they must navigate with no more connection then blood. But as the situation becomes more bleak and the stakes are raised their relationship doesn't change. We watch Claire come a little into her own. She becomes responsible (if ridiculously rash) and relentless. Lydia on the other hand plays the victim (physically and mentally) through the entire book. She blames Claire for not believing her although it is made clear that she was an irresponsible drug addict for the majority of her young adult life. Slaughter spends a ridiculous amount of time having Lydia express to Claire how she doesn't forgive her even as she hitches herself to this hot mess of a plot line. She charges ahead full blast, gets into trouble and then continues to badmouth Claire through the whole book. Her relationship with Claire was broken because Claire didn't believe her so she instead spends the entire book not believing in Claire. It was understandable in the beginning, but I couldn't get past being in the final 100 pages and reading Lydia's derogatory thoughts about Claire, especially after all that we had learned at that point.
It's not just the sisters that are a mess, but the mother is as well. She goes from inattentive to overly capable in the blink of an eye. Suddenly she's willing to do anything for her daughter(s), she's driving decoy cars, buying burner phones, and attempting to acquire bullets. Helen comes out of left field and is decidedly too convenient considering the relational context built for the reader.
I could spend all day talking about the poorly construed relationships but in the interest of time and reader ship I will move on. What's next? Let's go plot. What we have before us is essentially a murder mystery. The death of Claire's husband leads us on a wild goose chase and for some poorly explained reason no one can help solve the problem but angry, unforgiving Lydia. The cops are bad, the politicians are dirty, the best friend is creepy and the Feds are too smarmy; ridiculously staged to create over obvious doubt in the reader. Thus the scenario pushes the sisters into a fight/flight situation with only each other to rely on. The problem here is that these people don't ever really become an obstacle to over come. Everyone is dirty so they can't be trusted, but Claire and Lydia are never in a situation where these people are actively working against them. There is a scene is which we figure out the cops are dirty, so we just avoid them for the rest of the book. They never come to investigate or to cover up facts. I also have a hard time handling the fact that we couldn't have found a not dirty law enforcer somewhere within the 50 billion towns we drive back and forth between? How is there a giant conspiracy and yet the conspiracy is absent for the majority of the book?
I've highlighted some very (in my opinion) major flaws so far, but some of it could have at least been alleviated through clever storytelling. But alas, the writing itself is flawed as well. For one, the story itself does not lend itself well to 1st person narration. There are supposed to be some pretty horrifying scenes in the book. Slaughter, as her name suggests, does not shy away from torture and rape. And yet when every grotesque scene is described as "I looked at the computer screen and saw... [insert your imagination]" there is no feeling to it. It doesn't awaken a fear or terror in the reader. In fact it comes off highly fake. The narrative voice is passive. There are no "actions" described only reaction to perceived action. Slaughter doesn't employ feeling, or scent, or sounds very well and that takes a lot away from the narration.
Once I figured out that I wouldn't like the characters and that the plot was highly stylized and ridiculous I continued to read for the mystery. But seeing as even the mystery was exposed by about 40-50% through there wasn't much to continue to motivate my reading,unless you count the feeling of "how much more ridiculous" can this get? If we're giving it a rating based on this Pretty Girls would have scored a 5 especially based on the absurd ending. Sadly that is not a normal criteria by which I rate my books so I will sadly have to stick with the aforementioned one.
4.0 out of 5 starsGripping crime thriller with blistering, action-packed finale
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 28, 2019
If there’s one thing you’re guaranteed with Karin Slaughter, it’s value for money. And ‘Pretty Girls’ has it in spades: a relentlessly gripping thriller with pulsating narrative, cunningly devised plot, and possibly the most chilling serial killer since Hannibal Lecter.
There are two strands to the narrative. The first centers on Claire Scott, who stumbles across a collection of horrific snuff videos on her murdered husband Paul’s computer in the days after his death. Did he download them or was he involved in making them? Why are the police giving her discovery the brush-off? Why is an FBI agent sniffing around? And most important of all, who was the man she was married to for two decades? The second strand involves the unsolved disappearance of Claire’s eldest sister, Julia, some 20 years ago; a tragedy that tore the family apart and led to their father’s suicide.
Slaughter deftly weaves together the two plot lines, eliciting morbid fascination on the one hand and empathy on the other. It’s a strange and volatile mix of emotions; a tale of the darkest depravity alongside one of closure, hope and reconciliation. Remarkable, really, how Slaughter pulls this off. Especially poignant are the heartfelt letters written by Julia’s father to his missing daughter. These are interspersed in the narrative and provide much-needed breathing space from the book’s darker passages.
The twin plots come to a blistering, action-packed finale, which simply has to be read in one sitting. Yes, there are one or two James Bond/Jack Bauer groan-aloud moments, but I can forgive the occasional far-fetched twist when the rest of the plot is so superbly crafted.
A note of warning to the more squeamish reader: some of the passages are shockingly graphic, perhaps gratuitously so, and definitely not for the faint-hearted. Do they add anything to the narrative? In my opinion, no, but that’s very much a personal view. My husband would say, the gorier the better, but it costs the book a star in my opinion.
Thanks for reading my review. I hope you found it helpful. You can find more candid book reviews on my Amazon profile page.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 21, 2020
I really can't understand how anyone can enjoy reading about such violence against women. I found the book abominable.I did finish it though I keep asking myself why I did. Time and again when I was reading it I had to go to the bathroom to throw up. I mean I don't even know what the morale of the story was and I did not even connect with characters. I normally enjoy reading this author's books but this wasn't for me. I found it too violent for my own liking. I have a 23 year old daughter who normally downloads most of the books that I have read and I was so worried she might want to read it too. I couldn't bear it if she did.For those of you who enjoyed it all I can say is one man's meat is another man's poison.
Found this book to be far far too gory and violent, being repeated over and over again, most of which should have been edited out to make more way for more characters and storyline. First time reading this author's work and this book as put me right off so I think it is probably the last.
I am a Karin Slaughter fan. I think I have read all her full length novels. This one was a bargain, but was terribly disappointing. I really struggled with the book. Large tracts of letters between two deceased characters appeared superfluous. I just could not get a handle on what the book was trying to say, and found myself speed reading large parts. The ending was disappointing as well. In shirt, I am very glad I did not pay the full price.
5.0 out of 5 starsShocking, thrilling, deceiving and unstoppable courage.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 10, 2019
A family's strong bond torn apart by kidnap, rape, murder and deceit. When Ann Kilpatrick goes missing it brings painful memories to the Carroll family and starts a worldwide of deceit, thrills, pain, curiosity and courage. Can Claire and Lydia uncover the truth and stay alive? Can they fix their estranged relationship and learn to trust and love each h other again or will they end up like their sister Julie? Such amazing reading as always. Hats off to Karin Slaugnter, thank you for such amazing reads 😁