Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kisscut - Karin Slaughter

Summary: Saturday night dates at the skating rink have been a tradition in the small southern town of Heartsdale for as long as anyone can remember, but when a teenage quarrel explodes into a deadly shoot-out, Sara Linton—the town's pediatrician and medical examiner—finds herself entangled in a terrible tragedy.
What seemed at first to be a horrific but individual catastrophe proves to have wider implications. The autopsy reveals evidence of long-term abuse, of ritualistic self -mutilation, but when Sara and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver start to investigate, they are frustrated at every turn.
The children surrounding the victim close ranks. The families turn their backs. Then a young girl is abducted, and it becomes clear that the first death is linked to an even more brutal crime, one far more shocking than anyone could have imagined. Meanwhile, detective Lena Adams, still recovering from her sister's death and her own brutal attack, finds herself drawn to a young man who might hold the answers. But unless Lena, Sara, and Jeffrey can uncover the deadly secrets the children hide, it's going to happen again . . .

My Review:Karin Slaughter has a talent for building suspense. The opening scene is gripping, told first from Sara's point of view, then moving to Jeffrey's. It starts out mildly but moves quickly to the standoff between the police chief and the young teenage girl, with Jeffrey killing her in front of a crowd of onlookers. Told in the third-person, the narrative perspective moves mainly between Sara and Jeffrey, occasionally moving to detective Lena Adams, who not long ago was held prisoner by a sexual psychopath, and is still trying to recover from the ordeal.

Kisscut is a difficult novel to like. The horrifying plot often feels gratuitous, with an unpleasant mismatch between the seriousness of the subject matter and the genre of the mystery novel. Of course, most mysteries delve into the dark realms of human psychology and action, and stories of serial killing and sadistic murder regularly get into the best-seller lists. There is nothing new in using these themes for entertainment. Maybe the problems for Slaughter is that she goes a little deeper than most into the psychology of the sexual use of children, making clear the damage it causes.

To read Kisscut for entertainment is to attempt to take pleasure in the pain of others, and so it places the reader in an uncomfortable position. Other novels delve into child abuse, but they are generally in the more serious form of a family drama. Slaughter's approach in pushing the boundaries of the mystery and horror genres with a harder psychological edge feels alternately brave and cheaply manipulative. It certainly won't please all readers, but perhaps somewhere, someone will find it memorable... I am not that person.

My Rating: 1 star

If I could sum this book up in on phrase: Ummmmm....Don't bother? Does that count?

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