Is there any feeling as delicious as opening a book by a favorite author and knowing — from the first paragraph — that you are not only going to love the book, but you are going to ignore all of your responsibilities and stay up way to late to finish it all in one sitting? That is exactly how I felt reading The Good Daughter. Karin Slaughter’s latest stand-alone novel is perhaps her best yet; perfectly paced to keep the reader breathless with anticipation; told from the point of view of flawed but relatable characters; with just enough of the story withheld so that you are kept guessing until the very last pages. It was a absolute treat to read, I only wish it were longer!
Charlotte Quinn was a happy thirteen-year-old girl living in a rural Georgia town, who until late found the only tension in her life to be the precarious position her father holds in the community. Rusty Quinn is a defense attorney to the worst the town has to offer: drunks, abusive husbands, thieves, and drug dealers. This makes him hated among the town police and its more law-abiding citizens, who find his work keeping criminals out of jail deplorable. He is also often targeted by those he failed to keep out of jail, so much so that his family — at the start of the novel in 1989 — have been victims of a arson attack by a disgruntled client that has burned down their house and left them with nothing, forced to live in rotting farmhouse outside of town.
Rusty believes deeply in his work. While he may represent men and women who have failed to make good choices, he truly believes that punishments should fit the crimes and everyone (almost) deserves a second chance. But his work puts him in many dangerous situations and the risks to his family seem to be growing worse, when, one night two armed men break into farmhouse and shoot his wife and older daughter, leaving Charlotte to run for her life.
Charlotte escapes and, showing the grit of a much older woman, testifies in open court against the killers: two brothers from a well-known family of violent criminals. The trial does not lessen the town’s dislike of Rusty and forces them both to live out her remaining childhood being targeted by the killers’ family, who think she framed their relatives. Charlotte also struggles for years to live down the horror of her attack and the loss of her beloved family, all the while living alongside a town that offers daily reminders.
Fast-forward twenty-eight years, we find Charlotte still in her small town, now a defense attorney herself working alongside her father defending the very people the rest of the town wants locked up. Charlotte and her father have struggled for years to heal from their grief; but for Charlotte it remains dangerously close to the surface, a simmering anger that she can only sometimes control. Of late, her marriage has failed and her hold on her sanity seems to be slipping.
Then, by set of almost impossible circumstances, Charlotte finds herself inside of the local middle school when a student with a gun attacks, taking the lives of two people. The shock of the shooting unlocks all of the terror of that night long ago, and suddenly Charlotte cannot keep her demons at bay.
In true Rusty fashion, her father signs on to represent the school-shooter and enlists Charlotte to help him build her defense. However good a lawyer she may be, Charlotte is finding in next to impossible to be involved in yet another traumatic murder trial. She feels so lost and dangerously close to unraveling completely, but cannot help but get involved in the case, since her father appears to believe that the school shooting is far more complicated than the police and the media are presenting it to the public and that perhaps an innocent girl has been caught in a larger web of crimes.
The tale that unfolds is thrilling, intelligent, heart-wrenching, and even at times funny, and shows (once again) that Karin Slaughter is one of the absolute best thriller and crime writers writing today. Not to be missed!