Pulp: Karin Slaughter

Fractured (Delacorte Press)

No matter how good or how successful any series of books is, living in the same headspace with the same characters book after book can weary even the most devoted author. Such is the case with Karin Slaughter's excellent Grant County series about a fictional small town in Georgia; needing a break, Slaughter introduced Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Will Trent in 2006's Triptych, and the Atlanta-based character is back in Fractured.

Triptych had a gimmick narrative that could easily have been a one-off, but Trent, an orphan with learning disabilities who is nevertheless one hell of an investigator, deserves a second act. Slaughter is noted for writing believably tortured characters, but Trent—despite his flaws and shriveling self-doubt—is probably the most hopeful and endearing character she's created, as he uses the techniques he learned to deal with his disability to piece together crimes in unconventional ways. Fractured is Slaughter's most straightforward narrative, its kidnapping plot disturbing and well-executed while nimbly balancing both procedural and character drama. Slaughter also tones down the usual harsh violence in Fractured. It feels terrible to complain about that in a crime novel, but Slaughter uses violence both viscerally and artfully to great effect.

Atlanta is also prime real estate for a mystery series to set up shop. It's easy to set a crime novel in New York or Los Angeles or even Chicago, but it's high time the Big Peach developed its own mythologies rooted in something besides Coca-Cola and Gone With the Wind. A world-class city deserves world-class fiction. The Varsity may never be Musso and Frank's, but Slaughter is giving it a go.