Review #13 – A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter

Normally when I read a book, it’s over the course of a few days. I grab all opportunities during the day to read, and every night before bed. This book I read while on vacation, so it was airport reading, immigration line reading, and catching a page or two here and there while waiting for my travel partner to finish getting ready. This may account for the disjointed experience of reading the book, and my lack of emotional connection to it… or maybe it’s just the book itself.

This is Slaughter’s 3rd book, published in 2003, and I seem to recall enjoying a couple others that I had read of hers. I wish I could say the same for this one. The storyline is certainly interesting–Sara Lipton is the medical examiner of a small Georgia college town. She is called in to examine a body of a college student suspected of killing himself. There is nothing particularly suspicious about the body, until more students (all connected to the first) start dying, all supposed suicides. Sara must team-up with her ex-husband (who she has an ongoing affair with), the police chief/sheriff of the town to solve the mystery of these supposed suicides. In addition, there are two side plots. The first involves Sara’s pregnant sister which serves to distract Sara from the job, and the second involves ex-cop/current campus security office Lena Adams. Lena is a mess… she was kidnapped and raped by a serial killer and has since been fired from the police department (which I assume was featured in earlier novels). She CLEARLY has PTSD although everyone in the novel is totally blind to this, and there is a certain amount of victim shaming going on by the men around her. Lena finds herself mixed up with a troubled young student, making up the basis of the second B-plot.

Overall, I found the book exhausting and depressing. Awful things happen to every character (especially, Lena), with absolutely no hope or relief. I need my mystery crime thrillers to have at least a mild humor at points, and there was none in this book. None of the “suicide” victims are particularly sympathetic, and at least 2 were portrayed as awful people. Sara Lipton is someone to root for, certainly, but between her stupid decisions regarding her ex and dealing with her own personal trauma with her sister, she’s not portrayed in the strong way she needed to be. She’s barely hanging on herself, and cannot carry a whole novel as a protagonist. Lena’s story is beyond devastating, and I am unsure of the way she was portrayed–she makes lots of decisions, that as a survivor of rape, could be used to blame her for what happens next, yet her PTSD is never addressed.

The mystery is fine, and I was interested in the outcome, but the weight of the characters definitely dampenend my enthusiasm. Overall, I felt relieved when I finally finished this one.