“No matter what happened to you, no matter what horrors you endured when you were taken away, you will always be my pretty little girl.”
From the author of the Will Trent series, Karin Slaughter, Pretty Girls is a 2015 thriller that follows two sisters, Claire and Lydia, who haven’t spoken in years. Claire is a glamorous trophy wife and Lydia is a single mother who struggles to make ends meet. When a pretty, young girl goes missing in their hometown, Claire and Lydia are reminded of their sister, Julia, who vanished without a trace when she was a teenager more than 20 years ago. Now, the two are brought back together when Claire’s husband is murdered, something that Lydia couldn’t be more happy about. But what could connect the disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man almost a quarter-century apart? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago.
A powerful and engrossing mystery thriller, Pretty Girls is one of the scariest books I have ever read. Packed with complex characters, disturbingly dark themes, and a number of unforgettable twists, this is a book that will literally get your heart racing.
I’ve struggled to get into the Karin Slaughter books that I’ve read so far, but I found Pretty Girls incredibly easy to get stuck into. The premise is set up really well, with many of the first chapters opening up so many questions and twists in the plot that your intrigue will quickly take over.
What will make this book stick in your head, though, is the sense of fear (but also of sheer repulsiveness) that eats away at you throughout. Everybody loves a thriller, but we are so used to reading about murder and abuse and feeling comfortable with the lack of gruesome details. But Slaughter does not hold back. Pretty Girls is an incredibly dark and graphic book, detailing the murder scenes with excruciating detail. It is very violent and gory and feels very much like a horror story for the most part.
The violent and gruesome details don’t come off as unnecessary, however, as you can feel Slaughter’s anger about the reality of such a story, about how this kind of crime happens in real life and very often goes unsolved. Having two strong, female leads working together to find justice for their sister, as well, this urges you all the more to want Claire and Lydia to carry on and succeed.
The scenes detailing their investigations are brilliantly gripping. There’s a scene around the middle section of the book when the two enter an abandoned house that put me so on edge that it prevented me from getting to sleep that night. It is such an intense and complex thriller that it constantly leaves you with so much more to find out. It really will keep you guessing until the very end, as well, whilst also ensuring that you’re too scared to stop reading because there is almost definitely something scarier and more disturbing to come in the next chapter.
Exploring many personal issues and relationships, Pretty Girls isn’t just about a story about the horrors in life; it is also a story about grief and forgiveness. Forgiveness is the only thing that can bring these characters together, whether they find out the answers to their sister’s death or not. With so much depth to it, Pretty Girls is an incredibly easy book to fly through, even though it is a heavy book to read both in tone and weight.
What’s so impressive about it is how well Slaughter creates her characters. There’s so much more to each of the characters that we are introduced to and they are all developed exceptionally well. Not only do we learn a lot about the relationship between these two sisters, but we are also gradually given details about their relationships with their mother and father which are also very impacting, as we see how their family fell apart in the first place.
Sadly, the book doesn’t end as well as it begins. Because of how much that happens in the setup and investigation, there didn’t seem enough time to properly tie the story up, so the final chapters do appear a little rushed in comparison. But that is my only criticism. Other than that, Pretty Girls is a fantastic mystery thriller to get stuck into.
If you love thrillers but are getting bored with the over-used formula that we are seeing so often of in thriller today, then Karin Slaughter’s books are a refreshing read and this is a perfect place to start.