By Chet Yarbrough
By Karin Slaughter (Book 6 of Will Trent series)
Narrated by Kathleen Early
Surprise–the genre of “Criminal” is crime fiction. Karin Slaughter, though only 41, is no newcomer. According to “Time” magazine, she has 5 million books in print.
Listening to “Criminal” makes one think Slaughter has some experience in male dominated professions. The gritty details of police squad room banter seem real to any person that has worked in a “good old boy” culture; which, even today, with few exceptions, is most American’ professions.
Slaughter creates a character in “Criminal” named Amanda that, at times, reminds one of Lisbeth Salander (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”); not just because she is a strong female character, but because Amanda is a self-contained, dominant personality.
“Criminal” is about sex, drugs, and pathological behavior which includes human dissociation and serial murder. Slaughter writes a story that outlines the life of a male cop; i.e. how he survives childhood abandonment, dyslexia, and genetic inheritance to become an honest, ethical human being.
However, the broad appeal of the story is its main character, Amanda Wagner. She overcomes sexual discrimination in a 1970s police department managed by Atlanta, Georgia’ “bubbas” that think women are sex objects hired to sleep with male associates, make coffee, and type reports.
The story tracks a woman police officer between the 1970s and the current day, showing how discrimination has evolved but not disappeared; i.e. today’s discrimination is less “in your face” and more outwardly civil. Drugs, particularly meth, are characterized as a gateway to prostitution. Once the threshold of addiction is crossed, women become tools of prostitution; exploited by pimps, johns, and society.
Slaughter is an entertaining writer. Sexual discrimination, pimping, racial bias, addiction, prostitution, multiple murders, and poverty are fabric of a story that revolves around obsession and money; Slaughter entertains the reader with protagonists that rival the evil of Stieg Larson’s Nazi religious zealot, Salander’s rapist, and the blond monster in Larson’ final book, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”.
If a reader likes Larson’s trilogy, Slaughter offers a female writer’s perspective on crimes against women. If a reader likes crime-fiction, Slaughter fits and fills the bill.