Source: Review copy
Publication: 24 June 2021 from Harper Collins
My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy for review
You thought no one saw you. You were wrong.
Leigh and her sister Callie are not bad people – but one night, more than two decades ago, they did something terrible. And the result was a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, devastated by violence.
Years later, Leigh has pushed that night from her mind and become a successful lawyer – but when she is forced to take on a new client against her will, her world begins to spiral out of control.
Because the client knows the truth about what happened twenty-three years ago. He knows what Leigh and Callie did. And unless they stop him, he’s going to tear their lives apart …
Just because you didn’t see the witness … doesn’t mean he wasn’t there.
It’s no exaggeration to say that in her latest stand-alone thriller, Karin Slaughter is on fire! Slaughter’s keen focus on what’s happening in America right now plays out between these pages with a blistering heat. As an immensely popular novelist, Slaughter takes her responsibility to social commentary very seriously and delivers not only a first class crime thriller but also a searing indictment on how US society fails to deal with a range of critical issues that are endangering people; from the drugs crisis to how the current Co-Vid pandemic is impacting on ordinary people, Slaughter does not pussy foot around, preferring to tell it as it is.
I wasn’t sure about heading into a full blown in-the midst-of-a-pandemic novel, but this is so well done and seamless that it felt natural and Slaughter has a more than a few well aimed remarks to make about those who choose to put others at risk.
Our protagonists are two sisters who are hiding a dark and terrifying secret. Leigh is a successful lawyer at a prestigious Chicago firm. Married with a teenage daughter she has a self-destruct button that will not allow her to be happy for too long and now she is separated from her husband and her daughter is staying with him. Leigh’s sister, Callie used to be a cheerleader until she broke her neck and became dependent on opioids. Now she is a drug addict who has fallen as low as it is possible to go, though she has a redeeming love of animals which allows us to see what she could have been in another life. These girls had a harsh upbringing from a mother who was largely absent and when she was present was a believer in the ‘school of hard knocks’ style of bringing up her kids.
Our antagonist is Andrew Tenant, a good looking businessman with a car sales franchise who is a dangerous psychopath. He’s accused of rape and battery and there’s really not much doubt that he is guilty.
Tenant has chosen Leigh to represent him and it soon becomes clear that he has his own very unsettling reasons for this selection and Leigh soon finds herself with nowhere to turn.
False Witness is dark and violent, even gory in places, but Slaughter provides a picture of the abiding bond of love that exists between these two sisters; she depicts the lengths each has gone to and will go to in order to keep the other safe. Her characterisation of Tenant as a toxic male whose sense of entitlement manspreads all over the pages renders him one of the more unforgettable villains of recent years. It’s not a new theme for Slaughter; she has tackled male violence, exertion of power and sexual assault before, clearly determined to shine a light on this pernicious, pervasive male behaviour until it is dealt with more effectively.
Slaughter draws her characters really well and as ever, the reader is drawn deep into the story from the opening pages. This is a brilliantly fast paced and engrossing book with characters you easily grow to love and some you hate on first meeting and never change your mind about. It is a story about love and the strength of the bonds of love. It’s undoubtedly graphic in its portrayal of abuse in various forms but that is how the strength of sibling love is able to shine through.
Verdict: I loved this book. Dark, gritty and violent it captures the imagination from the outset and is instantly compulsive reading. Ultimately a thriller about the power of love, Karin Slaughter has produced an intense contemporary crime thriller that is both explosive and volcanic in its passion.
Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her 20 novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated CopTown and the instant Sunday Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls, Pieces of Her, The Good Daughter and The Silent Wife. Pieces of Her is an upcoming eight-part Netflix adaptation, starring Toni Collette, directed by Minkie Spiro (Downton Abbey) and produced by Charlotte Stoudt (Homeland) Lesli Linka Glatter (Mad Men) and Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies). Grant County and Will Trent series are also in development for television. Karin is also the founder of the Save the Libraries project – a non-profit organisation established to support libraries and library programming. A native of Georgia, she lives in Atlanta.