Triptych, by Karin Slaughter

>> Sunday, September 02, 2018

TITLE: Triptych
AUTHOR: Karin Slaughter

COPYRIGHT: 2006
PAGES: 393
PUBLISHER: Delacorte

SETTING: Contemporary Georgia, US
TYPE: Mystery/Thriller
SERIES: #1 in the Will Trent series

From Atlanta’s wealthiest suburbs to its stark inner-city housing projects, a killer has crossed the boundaries of wealth and race. And the people who are chasing him must cross those boundaries, too. Among them is Michael Ormewood, a veteran detective whose marriage is hanging by a thread—and whose arrogance and explosive temper are threatening his career. And Angie Polaski, a beautiful vice cop who was once Michael’ s lover before she became his enemy. But unbeknownst to both of them, another player has entered the game: a loser ex-con who has stumbled upon the killer’s trail in the most coincidental of ways—and who may be the key to breaking the case wide open.

In this gritty, gripping firecracker of a novel, the author of the bestselling Grant County, Georgia, series breaks thrilling new ground, weaving together the threads of a complex, multilayered story with the skill of a master craftsman. Packed with body-bending switchbacks, searing psychological suspense and human emotions, Triptych ratchets up the tension one revelation at a time as it races to a shattering and unforgettable climax.
The title of this novel refers to its structure. It's made up of 3 parts, each narrated from the POV of different characters. It's going to be challenging to describe this in a spoiler-free way, but I'll have a go.

The first narrator is Michael Ormewood, a police detective in a Georgia town who is assigned the case of a prostitute found killed and mutilated, her tongue bitten off. Michael is not too happy when an agent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assigned to partner him in the case. Will Grant tells him the case has certain aspects in common with the recent rapes of several young girls.

The second part is narrated by John Shelley, a man who recently got out of jail after over 20 years. When he was a teenager, John was convicted of raping and killing (and mutilating -ding, ding, ding!) a girl from his school. John was quite the druggie at the time, and he was off his head during the events in question, but he's pretty sure he didn't do it. Now that he's out, he discovers that someone has been using his identity to do some suspicious financial transactions. Trying to figure out what's going on there leads to some revelations about other things.

The last, and by far the longest part is narrated by Will Grant and another police officer, Angie Polaski, as they investigate what exactly is going on. Angie and Will have known each other for many, many years. They grew up together in a children's home, after having endured horrific abuse. They have a very complicated, messed-up relationship. They love each other and have been together in the past, but while Will wants them to be together, Angie keeps pushing him away and leaving him for men she herself acknowledges are horrible.

This is one of those reviews where I need to make clear that the way I grade in this blog is not really about the quality of the book, but about my enjoyment of it. Because it's not that Triptych is bad (although I did have some objective issues with it), but that I absolutely hated reading it.

It's not so much that there is a lot of darkness in it. I've enjoyed pretty dark books. Partly it's the overwhelming nature of the abuse and brutal horribleness that is piled on and on pretty much every single character, both in their past and in the present. But a big part of it is the tone of it. It feels like Slaughter almost revels in the horrible things that she does to her characters. It made me feel dirty. Her world is a disgusting place I don't want to live in.

On a more 'objective quality' note, this didn't work too well for me as a mystery either. Well, it's not really a mystery. We find out a bit too early exactly what happened and who did it, so then it becomes about when the main characters will actually start properly communicating and figure it out. It's frustrating, because if they weren't so consumed and screwed up by the horrific things that happened to them in the past and still affect them, a lot of suffering of innocent people would have been prevented.

This is the second Slaughter book I've tried. The first one (The Good Daughter, which I haven't reviewed yet) I gave up on for similar reasons, but I stuck till the end with this one, partly because I was hoping the ending would give me some satisfaction. It didn't.

MY GRADE: A D.

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