July marks the start of some books that have long been idling on my virtual to-read shelf. Say hello to my new favourite authors Hari Kunzru and Karin Slaughter. Thank you Zoë (follow her blog here) for recommending the latter!
White Tears (by Hari Kunzru, 2017)
I ought to have made that session, ought to have walked through the door of the Saint James Hotel. Instead I’m twenty-seven years old and rotting in the levee with hate in my heart. Starless desolation in my heart. I was never paid for the whip and the gun, never paid for the work I done.
White Tears begins with the serendipitous meeting of two white youths Carter and Seth, brought together by their love for music. When they hear the forgotten hymn of a black bluesman, they decide to deem him Charlie Shaw and make bank on his music. Instead, they uncover his forgotten voice – and all the pain that comes with it.
There is much to think about with this novel’s many moments of violence. It is not just the brutal attack Carter gets caught up in or that in the dark past of Charlie Shaw, representative of a million others. The most significant aggression occurs in casual bouts – in Carter’s blatant theft of culture and Seth’s eagerness to shift responsibility. “It’s not fair to blame me for things that took place long before I was even born,” Seth insists at a juncture, missing the point that was truly made.
Visions begin to mar reality. It is easy to get lost in the shifting perspectives as the story weaves in and out of timelines. But the strange nightmare comes with a lasting, morbid allure that will consume those who dare relent.
Triptych (by Karin Slaughter, 2006)
Spend a million dollars rescuing some kid who’s fallen down a well, but God forbid you spend a hundred bucks up front to cap the well so the kid never falls down it in the first place.
Crime thriller Triptych unfolds from the perspectives of Michael Ormewood, Will Trent and Angie Polaski, three detectives investigating a string of twisted rape murders in Atlanta. The title likely refers to this trio of voices, but also perhaps their many sides that make them whole.
The story fleshes out their experiences with brutal violence, both during the case at hand an d beyond. At times delving into their individual pasts, Karin Slaughter allows her characters to be shaped by the choices they make and not purely circumstance.
Police procedurals can be over-the-top or reliant on shock. But with Triptych, Slaughter never lets the brutality of the case distract from the layered backstories that she wants to tell of her characters. This is especially for lead detective Will Trent, a good sign for the sequels to come.
Fractured (by Karin Slaughter, 2008)
His words hung between them, and Faith tried to pin down when exactly their relationship had gone from cooly professional to personal. There was something so kind about him under his awkward manners and social ineptness. Despite her best intentions, Faith realised that she could not hate Will Trent.
While investigating the graphic murders of two teenagers, detective Will Trent uncovers the abduction of another. Leads are unfortunately scarce. Complicating the case are his own secrets, which risk impeding the case at hand. It is the luck of the draw that his new partner is Faith Mitchell, whose mother had been the subject of his internal investigation.
Karin Slaughter’s novels are not easy reads. Violent sex-motivated crimes permeate her stories in disturbing detail and quantity. This time, the constant dead ends make for a seriously bleak setting. Yet her art of characterisation still draws me in, wanting to learn more about Will and Faith. It is the growth of their initially hostile relationship that ultimately leaves the strongest impression.