A Faint Cold Fear

A Faint Cold Fear_KarinSlaughter_10216957

UNEARNED GUILT

4 STARS

Sunday starts quite badly for one young Grant Tech student. Andy Rosen’s body lies in a dry riverbed, apparently as a result of jumping off the bridge that crosses that riverbed near the college.

Sunday ends quite badly for another young person and it ends only a few hundred yards from Rosen. Tessa Linton’s body lies on a trail in the woods overlooking the death site. She has been nearly scalped and has a knife wound in her chest. She has been partially eviscerated by two slashes to her stomach, blood is pouring freely and her 8-months-old fetus is dead. But, unlike Andy Rosen, Tessa is still breathing, but just barely, when she is found.

Having ice cream with her sister, Tessa, when she gets the call about the apparent suicide, Sara Linton, the county medical examiner and one of the main protagonists in the series, lets Tessa do a ride-along with her. While Sara works the body, the pregnant Tessa steps into the adjacent woods for a “pit stop.”

Now finished with the body and realizing that Tessa hasn’t returned, Sara and Jeffrey Tolliver (who is Sara’s ex-husband, the local Chief of Police and the second main protagonist of the series), launch a search. By the time Sara finds Tessa and gets her aboard a medevac, one of the searchers, Lena Adams (an ex-cop and the third protagonist, or, should I say, antagonist, of the series) has spotted and chased a fleeing man.

Now, Linton and Tolliver are not so sure that Rosen’s death is truly a suicide. Only one mark on the body is suspicious, but Tessa’s stabbing is too close in both vicinity and timing to be written off as a random event.

For almost 450 pages, Karin Slaughter bombards the reader with guilt, culpability, self-blame, self-destructiveness, helplessness, self-delusion, failure, verbal defensiveness, physical domestic abuse, lies by omission, passive-aggressive tendencies, self-reproach, self-condemnation, shame, remorse, compunction and plain old-fashioned stubbornness. By the end of the book, the main characters will do enough screaming to cause hearing loss and shed enough tears to fill that dry riverbed.

Karin Slaughter never lets up on the pain. There are simply no happy moments, no smiles, and no laughs that are not tainted by some underlying current of misery. Quite frankly, this is not a book to read on a rainy day.

However, constant misery aside, the who-done-it and the why-done-it are not easy to figure. There are so many dysfunctional, neurotic and sociopathic characters in evidence that it is difficult to get a handle on just who is the worst of the bunch. Everyone is hiding something and nearly everyone is doing his or her utmost best to deflect attention away and implicate someone else in the crimes. As the book barrels to the climax, the only people the reader can eliminate as suspects are Linton and Tolliver.

Slaughter makes reading between the lines a must in this novel. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can be taken at face value, not even the confession. Sometimes, what is not said is infinitely more important than what is actually spoken. And when you reach the last three paragraphs of the book, do not be surprised when your eyes widen, your eyebrows shoot up into your hairline and you gasp, “Oh. My. God.”

Cover Art From Goodreads

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