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by Karin Slaughter
William Morrow, August 2017
528 pages
ISBN: 0062430246

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin Slaughter is a well-plotted thriller with engaging characters that comes complete with a variety of twists and turns. Even though I had some issues with the writing style, the plot and the characters had me hooked throughout the book.

The prologue of the book describes that night that changed the lives of the Quinn family forever: their mother was murdered, the older daughter Samantha was shot in the head and left for dead, and the younger daughter Charlotte survived by escaping from the murderers and running away to a neighbor's house.

Fast-forward twenty-eight years later; Charlotte (now known as Charlie) has become an attorney who practices law in the same office as her father Rusty, an ardent believer that all who are accused of a crime deserve legal representation. Her life seems to feature one reckless choice after another: she is drinking too much, is separated from her husband, and has a one-night stand where she takes the wrong phone home.

The man she had sex with is attractive hunk Mason Huckabee, a former Marine who has come back home to teach middle school. The tale begins when she heads to the middle school so that they can exchange phones. While they are rather awkwardly exchanging phones as well as other pertinent information, such as names, shots ring out as they find themselves in the middle of a very frightening event: a school shooting. The school principal has been killed, along with a child who is the daughter of one of the teachers at the school. When Charlie and Huckabee get to the scene, they find a teenage girl holding a gun. Judith Heller Pinkman, wife of the now-dead principal, is also there, cradling the body of the child who was killed.

This is a book of two horrific crimes, how they are related and how the author releases the details that make these crimes so gut-wrenching. The inter-weaving of the stories is handled very deftly. As an example, Judith Pinkman was the neighbor to whom Charlie ran for safety. Seeing her at the new crime scene triggered flashbacks to the first crime for Charlie.

Yet as the book title implies, there is more to this book than the story about the crimes. It is also the story of the Quinn family and how the events twenty-eight years ago completely changed their lives. We also find out how secrets, even well-meaning ones, can tear a family apart. We find out what happened to Samantha, and how she not only survived but went on to have a relatively successful life. She too becomes a lawyer, and plays a pivotal role in finding out the truth about both crimes.

My only quibble with the book is that the tone of the writing, particularly in the dialogue, sometimes seemed too light and breezy for the subject matter. Yet Slaughter has done an excellent job in crafting believable, likeable and realistically flawed characters, both major and minor, that this reader ended up thinking about long after the book was finished.

Phyllis Onstad has been a writer, editor, civil servant, teacher and voracious reader. She currently lives in the California wine country.

Reviewed by Phyllis Onstad, August 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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