Book Review: Criminal by Karin Slaughter

Posted March 27, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Criminal by Karin Slaughter

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Criminal by Karin Slaughter
Genres: Thriller
Published by Dell on July 3, 2012
Pages: 448
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Kisscut, Indelible, A Faint Cold Fear, Triptych , Faithless, Beyond Reach, Blindsighted , Triptych, Fractured, Undone, Broken, "Snatched", "Busted", Unseen, "Cleaning the Gold", The Silent Wife, Blindsighted , Kisscut

Sixth in the Will Trent thriller series and revolving around a dyslexic agent who’s made something of himself in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2012, Criminal was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller.

My Take

Whoa…!! It’s another pip that reveals so much about Will’s past. A past so bad that I cried and cried. We do find out how Will learned how to fix things. And it sounds as though orphans (all young people, really) need lessons in economics. I’d add a *grin”, but it’s just too sad… It’s also the pivotal story in which Amanda turns her sights on GBI.

It’s tension and drama on both sides — back in the day for Amanda and Evelyn as they struggle to be taken seriously and “today” for Will as he struggles to understand why Amanda treats him as she does. Fortunately, Slaughter uses a third person global subjective point-of-view, so we get to “hear” from everybody.

Yeah, I’m sure you’ve guessed that it’s another tale that flips back and forth in history. Thankfully, Slaughter provides a timestamp at the start of the chapters to keep us on track.

It’s a different look at the life of a hooker. A horror story for them as well as a look back at Will’s horror of a past. Another look at how women were perceived back in the early 1970s, the sexual harassment. At how people reacted to Jews, to Blacks.

“Amanda had never been inside a Jew’s home before.”

It’s those machinations amongst the other cops to hurt their female and Black counterparts. The corruption, the incredibly sloppy investigation, and the lack of concern. The evidence being hidden or corrupted. It’s mindboggling. How little they care about doing a proper job. How pissed they get at Amanda and Evelyn. I’ll never understand not caring if they get the real bad guys. How Amanda sucks up to those jerks!?! Be sure to read the Acknowledgments at the end for some unexpected insights from Slaughter.

“They asked mom if she was joining the force so she could have sex with policemen. She told them it depended on what the policeman looked like.”

Christ, it was a nightmare back then — if you weren’t a white male. Thank god we’ve made the progress we have.

Okay, okay, I can appreciate Amanda’s sentiment: “sick and tired of being told how to live her life by women who never had to write their own rent checks”. What’s involved in getting a credit card, being able to rent an apartment, buying a car…

There’s a sea change in how Sara perceives Will, especially after his actions toward Amanda when she fell. Oh, she still sees him as bright, good company, funny, and her dogs adore him. She’s amazed at how well he overcame his start in life. But she doesn’t understand how he can be so easygoing when the evidence of his past is so obvious on his body. And she’s terrified of the cold in him. I do appreciate her attitude about Angie. Will has tried to let his hate of his father go, and it’s Angie in his face about getting his vengeance. When will Will ever do something about that woman?!

I love that Will took on turning his house into a home — and convincing the drug addicts that the house was under new ownership. That tidbit about the brick in his home being similar to that in the basement of the children’s home. That he restored his Porsche.

Geez, it wasn’t until Will was in college that he figured out that he had dyslexia. Where were all his previous teachers?? Those jerkwads who told him he was stupid!??

Oh, man. Amanda says old people are expensive to take care of, implying that Will’s dad was paroled because of his health. Why? Why would a “justice” system think it was okay to release someone like him???

Bill surely does love Evelyn. Air conditioning. A shed. Accepting that she wants to work as a cop. We do discover how Evelyn and Bill met and how/why she became a cop. It does make for an interesting look into Evelyn’s life, especially contrasting it with Amanda’s. Who knew Evelyn had been a mermaid?? There’s that chunk we learn about Amanda’s past: two kids, three grandkids, divorced five times (twice from the same man), and all without ever wearing a pantsuit. That Amanda had wanted to be a Kelly girl? I had no idea she’d actually had a life. I certainly can’t imagine her showing any gentleness or care.

And the animosity between Will and Amanda is rising. It has to be part of the series arc. It has to be. Yeah, you just wait until you read about Amanda’s hand in Will’s past. You’ll be thinking the same! I am curious as to why Amanda didn’t want Will on the case. He’s going to find out anyway.

It was in Fallen, 5, that we first learned about Amanda’s nickname, “Wag”. We also learn in Criminal of her reflections on the why of it. Sad. And it says a lot about why she’s turned into such a hardcase. But not why she’s so mean to Will! I know, I’m obsessing. Most people are afraid of Amanda, because of her dad. I can’t believe Amanda is so focused on her own fear of him to not realize how to make use of other people’s fears.

It’s rather confusing with all those first names that I later had to connect up with last names.

It’s kind of weird. In earlier stories, Pete Hanson is such a great guy. In this one, Amanda finds him creepy, but I don’t get why. He sure sounds like an intelligent and decent man. Ohhh, maybe that’s why…ecause he treats people like people…

I like Evelyn’s reasons for a woman to be a cop. For a female victim to see another woman, one who can make the man whaling on her have to answer her questions. That they’re talking to someone who understands them. That they matter. And it’s the same reason for a Black to be a cop…

The funny thing is…it’s Evelyn who pushes Amanda into going active.

The Story

It’s happening again. Murders similar to killings in 1975. The case that launched Amanda’s career forty years ago has suddenly come back to life — and it involves the long-held mystery of Will’s birth and parentage.

Now Will and Amanda will each need to face down demons from the past, if they are to prevent an even greater terror from being unleashed.

The Characters

Starting August 1974

Jane Delray, Donna Mary Halston, Mary Louise Eitel, Mary Ellis, Lydia, Lucy Bennett, and the backstabbing Kitty Treadwell, who is good at getting what she wants and is leasing “work” space in her Techwood apartment to others, are hookers. Dwayne “Juice” Mathison is their pimp.

The black Miss Lula is an old lady who used to be a teacher and now runs Techwood. Jerry had been Mary Halston’s high school boyfriend who went to ‘Nam, got hooked on heroin and hooked Mary when he got back stateside. Lucy Bennett, who loves to read, is nineteen and her hair is starting to fall out, but at least she’s thin. Henry “Hank” is Lucy’s brother. Jill Henderson had been Lucy’s best friend at fifteen; her mother, Mrs Henderson, was a nurse at Clayton General Hospital. Mr Peterson, Mr Sheffield, and Mr Laramie, all neighbors of the Bennetts, were members of the Ku Klux Klan. Fat George had been the only other overweight kid in Lucy’s school. Bobby Fields, a mechanic at one of Lucy’s dad’s gas stations, was almost twenty years older than Lucy. The abusive Fred cleaned planes at the airport. Chuck managed an apartment complex.

The Atlanta Children’s Home was…
…located in Buttermilk Bottom, a slum without electricity or paved streets. Edna Flannigan was the director.

The Atlanta PD
The Inspection Division‘s whole purpose was checking the appearance of the female cops. The federal Law Enforcement Assistance Association grant created the sex crimes division that was supposed to be comprised of three-officer units that were racially and sexually integrated. Only white women couldn’t ride with black men. Black women weren’t allowed to ride with black men. No blacks wanted to ride with white men. Oops. Perry Homes is a very dangerous Westside ghetto with its own police force staffed by returning vets. The DNF is the Dead Nigger File. White cops were required to belong to the Ku Klux Klan (Police Chief Herbert Jenkins drummed the Klan out in the 1960s).

Captain “Duke” Wagner is Amanda’s influential father and a cop who had been in charge of Zone 1 for over twenty years. Miriam Wagner had been a schoolteacher who refused to sign the pledge. He was one of those let go from the force when Eaves got in. Lars Oglethorpe is one of Duke’s friends who just got reinstated.

Rick Landry and Butch Bonnie are lousy homicide detectives and worse as men. Sergeant Mike Geary doesn’t think women should be on the job and has it in for Amanda. Sergeant Luther Hodge is one of Reggie’s boys, and the new man in charge at Amanda and Vanessa’s precinct. He’s a surprise. Detective Kyle Peterson is transferred from Zone 2; he’s either asleep in the back of his car or putting his hand up a woman’s skirt. Sergeant Hoyt Woody hits the bars before work. The lecherous Captain Bubba Keller, one of Duke’s poker buddies, does a lousy job of running the jail. Holly Scott is Bubba’s secretary. Phillip, a guard, and Martha also work at the jail. Larry Pearse runs the property room.

Dr Pete Hanson, a coroner, runs the morgue. He’s teaching Deena Coolidge, a black woman, how to do tests and lab work. Dr Ned Taylor is one of Pete’s pupils.

Reginald Eaves is Atlanta’s first black public safety commissioner; he fired most of the senior white officers and replaced them with blacks. The exact opposite of what John Inman, the previous commissioner had done. Maynard Jackson is the city’s first black mayor. Busbee is governor. Lester Maddox had been a governor. The Pickrick was Maddox’s restaurant.

Amanda Wagner, a.k.a., Wag, wants to be a cop. Vanessa Livingston is rumored to be “trim”, but she is a reliable partner, if a bit hippie dippie. Sandra Phillips is a black woman who keeps her head shaved. Evelyn Mitchell has just returned from a two-year maternity leave from which no one had expected her to come back. Bill’s mother moved in down the street to help take care of Zeke, the toddler. Bill is Evelyn’s insurance broker husband; Kenny is his brother, a pilot with Eastern. Together they’re building a shed for potting soil and Evelyn’s gun.

The network
Cindy Murray works at the Five and will become Will’s caseworker. Rachel Foster works in dispatch and goes to law school at night. Pam Canale works at the Housing Authority. She and Amanda aren’t close friends — the woman is Italian after all. Mimi Mitideri is Pam’s niece who almost ran off with a Navy cadet. In “today”, Mimi is a cop. Roz Levy is Evelyn’s neighbor, Jewish, and she’s worked with APD for ten years as a crime scene photographer. Her alcoholic husband is a cop.

Andrew Treadwell of Treadwell-Price, a law firm that specializes in construction law, supported Jackson for mayor. Eugenia Louise Treadwell is his daughter at a Swiss girls school.

Nathan Benowitz is a Jew who sells insurance. Trey Callahan does it all at the Union Mission. His fiancée, Eileen Sapperson, is getting her nursing degree at Georgia Baptist. Patty Hearst is in the news. Mills Lane is the president of the C&S Bank. Father Bailey and James Ulster work at the soup kitchen providing spiritual support. Ulster used to be a foreman at the railroad yard. Herman Centrello is a brilliant defense attorney.


Special Agent Dr Wilbur/William “Will” Trent, a dyslexic who’s managed to hide his disability from most people, was recruited into GBI by Amanda — and is still on toilet duty at the airport (“Snatched“, 5.5). He drives a ’79 Porsche he restored himself; Betty is his Chihuahua.

The nasty Angie Polaski Trent, an addict, a thief, a former Atlanta undercover detective in Vice, has been Will’s wife for two years. They’ve known each other since Will was eight and Angie was dropped off at the Atlanta Children’s Home. Diedre Polaski was Angie’s comatose mother who finally died a few months ago.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is…
…the state equivalent of the FBI. Dr Amanda Wagner is the deputy director in Atlanta and Will’s publicity-loving boss. Special Agent Faith Mitchell, a former Atlanta homicide detective, has been Will’s partner for two years. Emma is her five-month-old daughter. Jeremy is her son and a student at Georgia Tech. Special Agent Charlie Reed is the crime scene investigator.

The retired Captain Evelyn Mitchell is Faith’s mother and one of Amanda’s oldest friends. She’s got a doctorate from Georgia Tech.

Grady Hospital is…
…also known as the Gradys, going back to when the wards were segregated. Dr Sara Linton is a pediatrician who works the ER at Grady and is dating Will. She had worked as a medical examiner back in Grant County. Billy and Bob are Sara’s greyhounds. Abel Conford is Sara’s neighbor. Dr Bert Krakauer also works the ER.

Atlanta PD
Detective Leo Donnelly is a mediocre cop and Faith’s former partner. Detective Jamal Hodge is Donnelly’s new partner and the deputy chief’s grandson. Captain Holly Scott cleaned up the jail. Rachel Foster is a judge. Dr Pete Hanson is still the medical examiner as well as a patient and giving teacher. Deena Coolidge, his second wife, runs the forensics lab at GBI. (Vanessa Livingston was the fourth Mrs Hanson.)

Ashleigh Snyder is a nineteen-year-old sophomore at Georgia Institute of Technology and missing. Suzanna “Zanna” Ford is a hooker, working for her next fix. Terry is her useless pimp. Jacob is the eight-year-old overdose victim. Sam Lawson, Faith’s ex-boyfriend, is a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Utay Keo is a Cambodian student at Georgia Tech working as a janitor. Elizabeth Bennett is married to Hank who became a partner at Treadwell-Price but is now retired.

Will’s diabetic father, 64, has been out on parole for the past six weeks and living in the Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons Hotel. Bob McGuire is head of hotel security.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a pile of sheer fabrics serving as background for the primarily red text. It begins a bit below the top with an info blurb with the author’s name immediately below it. Just below center is the title partially obscured by the sheer folds. Beneath that is the information, in black, that this is a novel.

The title is truly Criminal “what a woman has to do” And if that don’t make me gag…

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Leave a Reply