Anything by Karin Slaughter, and this book in particular, should come with a trigger warning, so just so you know: MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING.
In the small, sleepy town of Heartsdale, GA, pediatrician and sometime medical examiner Sara Linton is having an uncomfortable lunch with her nosy sister. When she goes off to the bathroom, she finds a woman bleeding to death. She’s been gruesomely assaulted and within minutes, she dies. It’s up to Sara and her ex-husband, Chief of Police Jeffrey Tolliver, to find the killer. As more women begin to disappear, it becomes a race against the clock.
Blindsighted is an extremely violent book, which is a shame as it doesn’t particularly need to be. The violence – violence solely against women, I should point out; the men generally come away unscathed – is so omnipresent that it distracts from the fact that it is a pretty decent detective story with believable characters and a tightly paced plot. And despite the female-directed violence and gore, it is great to find a thriller that has two strong female leads (and a male one).
Sara Linton is not my cup of tea – she’s too perfect, we’re clearly meant to like her, but I find her to be sanctimonious, condescending and humourless, though in this first installment she’s more palatable. But she is strong and intelligent and can hold her own in a male-dominated environment. There’s also Jeffrey, whose occasional dickishness doesn’t obscure the fact that he’s a decent man at heart. Finally, there’s Lena Adams, Jeffrey’s subordinate and the first victim’s twin sister. Lena’s described with a lot of southern euphemisms for the word ‘bitch’, and, to be fair, she’s not the sort of person you’d immediate like if you met her in the streets, but she’s smart and brave. The searing pain she feels after the death of her sister is almost palpable. Meanwhile, her backstory and her acerbic bickering with her uncle provide a gripping narrative. Lena’s the only woman on the police force and an ethnic minority in a conservative and very white county, which means she’s constantly out to prove herself. She’s a fascinating character, particularly because she’s the polar opposite of Sara without it being detrimental, but the fact that she’s so strong makes her storyline all the more heartbreaking.
Ultimately, Blindsighted is not a bad book. Slaughter’s writing is flowing and naturalistic, the characters are well-rounded and the story is a real nail-biter. But the gratuitous violence is not for everyone. Additionally, rape as a plot device is too easy, trite and overused and this book is probably more guilty of it than most perpetrators, because HOO BOY this book is rapey – though I will say Slaughter doesn’t use it as a cheap way to throw the female lead into the male lead’s arms. It is treated as a serious subject. I just wish Slaughter could have found a different medium to get there.