“If only Lena hadn’t found it. If only she could take a razor and slice the images out of her brain. They haunted her. They flickered into her vision like an old movie every time she blinked. They filled her with a constant, unrelenting sorrow.”
The seventh instalment in Karin Slaughter‘s Will Trent series of detective thrillers, 2013’s Unseen sees Special Agent Will Trent return with a secret, something he doesn’t want the woman he loves, Dr Sara Linton, to find out. He’s gone undercover in Macon, Georgia, and has put his life at risk to solve a case involving someone close to Sara – her stepson, Jared, who has been gunned down in his own home. Sara holds Lena, Jared’s wife and also a detective, responsible, so Will knows that she will never forgive him if she finds out the truth. As Will tries to solve his case, Sara is forced to confront her past and, without even knowing it, they become involved in the same crime. Soon, both of their lives are in danger.
Maybe it’s because this is the first Will Trent book that I have read and that there were so many characters to get to know, but I found this book very difficult to get into and keep up with. There are various stories that come together, the plot jumps around with flashbacks and flashforwards, and the characters have all kinds of intertwining relationships as Will works undercover with a different persona, just to confuse things all the more.
Once I got my head around who everybody was, however, and as the two ongoing investigations collide, it’s very easy to get stuck into the mystery of how these stories link together. Their conclusions are equally intense and shocking, with the final few chapters being completely unpredictable. There’s one chapter, in particular, that is left on a massive cliff-hanger which is what kept me reading. Annoyingly, it’s a long way off when you find out what Lena had been detailing in her past because of the interchanging viewpoints, but it really does grip your attention.
Slaughter is obviously a very talented writer as the plot and characters are so well constructed, so there’s no doubting why she remains a dominant voice in the crime fiction genre. With themes of child abuse and rape, it is a hard-hitting read with a number of dark scenes involving some sinister characters. Slaughter, however, is always a very compassionate writer when it comes to such subject matters, as she deals with the aftermath of these traumas excellently.
The problem is that Unseen is an incredibly dense book. As part of a series, I know I would have thought much more highly of this book if I knew some of the background. Slaughter has been constructing these characters for 10 years already, so there’s obviously a lot of development that this instalment is built on. With the book bringing in the character of Sarah Linton, as well, who readers of Slaughter’s novels will have met before in her Grant County series, there’s a that new readers won’t be aware of.
The book does do well to touch on most of the character’s previous issues and relationships, but there’s not enough context to know whether we like these characters or not. Because of this, scenes like Sara and Lena finally having their big confrontation don’t have the same impact if you haven’t read about their conflict beforehand. This is definitely a book I would have to revisit if I were to get into the Will Trent series properly, but I’m not sure that it has completely tempted me into giving it a go just yet (Although I am loving Slaughter’s books that aren’t part of this series!)
If you manage to stick around to find out the book’s tense conclusions, then this book will definitely get you hooked by the second half. However, it is a hard book to read as a standalone instalment. I wouldn’t recommend this book if you hadn’t read in the series already, as you might be put off at the start with so much to get your head around, but it will no doubt please fans of the series who know what’s going on.