||Kisscut is a reminder that Karin Slaughter has--with just one previous novel--built a reputation as one of the most powerful and astringent thriller writers at work today. In fact, Slaughter's work represents a development of the Southern Gothic strain, and like so many of her illustrious predecessors, she is adept at exploring the darker reaches of the human psyche. As her last book, Blindsighted, sold over 25,000 copies, it would seem that many of us have become Slaughter aficionados.
Kisscut begins with a particularly explosive opening. In the car park of a skating rink in the small southern town of Heartsdale, chief of police Jeffrey Tolliver witnesses a teenage girl pointing a gun at a man. But the detective, there for a date with his ex-wife Sara (the town's medical examiner and paediatrician), is obliged to shoot the girl to save the boy's life. The subsequent autopsy brings to light a gallery of horrors, and as Tolliver and Sara undertake a particularly difficult investigation, they are met with a wall of silence.
Slaughter is now routinely compared to Thomas Harris, and the comparisons are not far-fetched. We're used to unflinching forensic detail these days (courtesy of such writers as Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell), but Slaughter is adept at unsettling the reader in a whole host of ways, not least through her recurrent suggestion that the patina of normality sustaining her characters is very thin indeed. Jeffrey and Sara's faltering relationship is richly drawn, though we find reduced attention given to their private problems as the novel progresses and the focus shifts more to the author's polished and consummate handling of the tortuous plot. --Barry Forshaw