False Witness by Karin Slaughter is the latest in a series of fabulous thrillers I’ve read within a short space of time. I’ve long been a fan of Slaughter’s series but am also very much enjoying her standalone novels.
I was worried this book might be a bit predictable, from the blurb. The premise seems kinda obvious, as if there will be nowhere for it to go that we haven’t been before. But – not only does Slaughter kick-off with an interesting twist – she manages to eke out the past and present in such a way that kept me riveted.
Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised - her life is just as unremarkable as she'd always hoped it would be.
But Leigh's ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average ... a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.
Then a case lands on her desk - defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It's the highest profile case she's ever been given - a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it's no coincidence that he's chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.
If she can't get him acquitted, she'll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Calli, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice ...
I like that Slaughter gets some stuff out of the way quickly. We know ‘who’ knows about the actions of the girls in the past. We soon learn ‘how’ they know. Thankfully those points weren’t belaboured. What I really liked about this book is that, though we’re kept in suspense about what’s going to happen in the present, it examines how the events of the past impact the way things unfold.
I’m reminded of my comments about Michael Robotham’s latest book, When You Are Mine. It’s a thriller but less about unravelling secrets or mysteries or even about what will eventually happen, it’s more about human nature, about behaviour and relationships. Here there’s a strong sense of grief and guilt as Slaughter takes us into the minds of the two sisters and we learn more about their childhood and their relationship with their mother and each other.
I was in a thrall of sorts as this unfolded which surprised me as the ‘what’ can only pan out in a couple of ways; but Slaughter gives us an intricate and compelling insight into the lives of the sisters. Both Leigh and Callie are forced to confront how they’ve become who they’ve become as well as the memories and beliefs they’ve held onto for so long.
I also very much liked the support characters, including Leigh’s estranged husband Walter and Callie’s occasional boss. Both allow us to see how the sisters relate to others and the baggage they carry from the past.
Slaughter paces this well and keeps the twists coming, ultimately taking us in a direction I didn’t expect. It’s touching, it’s uplifting and at times it’s devastating.
False Witness by Karin Slaughter was published in Australia by Harper Collins and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.