When Special Agent Will Trent arrives in Grant County, he finds a police department determined to protect its own and far too many unanswered questions about a prisoner’s death. He doesn’t understand why Officer Lena Adams is hiding secrets from him. He doesn’t understand her role in the death of Grant County’s popular police chief. He doesn’t understand why that man’s widow, Dr. Sara Linton, needs him now more than ever to help her crack this case.
While the police force investigates the murder of a young woman pulled from a frigid lake, Trent investigates the police force, putting pressure on Adams just when she’s already about to crack. Caught between two complicated and determined women, trying to understand Linton’s passionate distrust of Adams, the facts surrounding Chief Tolliver’s death, and the complexities of this insular town, Trent will unleash a case filled with explosive secrets–and encounter a thin blue line that could be murderous if crossed.
False Witness is the fourth book in the Will Trent series where we get to travel back to Grant County as Sara visits her family for Thanksgiving. Sara has barely settled into her parent’s house before she hears about the body found in the lake and how a young police detective was injured while the suspect was being arrested. Already drowning in memories, Sara is anxious to keep her distance from her deceased husband’s former colleagues but when she hears the suspect is asking to speak to her as a former patient she is too intrigued to tay away even though she doesn’t remember him. By the time Sara arrives at the station, the suspect has taken his own life and she realises exactly who he was and that he never would’ve been capable of killing anyone.
When Sara learns he was arrested by Lena Adams who failed to search him, she lets her anger get the better of her and calls in the GBI. There is a lot of anger simmering between these two women as Sara wants Lena punished for Jeffrey’s death, yet Lena maintains her innocence underling how Jeffrey was killed on the job. The angry feelings would indicate we are about to get an explosive meeting between the two but you’d be wrong since they never share a scene together. Yet, Slaughter still manages to keep the bad feelings flowing between them by using intermediaries, mainly Will, who is torn between the two of them. First and foremost, Will is loyal to Sara but he has good instincts and is willing to hear Lena out. Avoiding a confrontation between Sara and Lena may seem like a cop out but it works effectively for this novel and it keeps the tension building.
Being back in Grant County, we get to meet Sara’s family again, including her sister, Tess, who has come home from her missionary work so her baby can be born in the States. While everything may seem familiar, Sara is definitely not the same person and Heartsdale is no longer the place she belongs as there are too many memories of Jeffrey. Sara’s sense of displacement is heightened by the presence of Will as he represents her future although she is not aware of it yet. I liked seeing Will interact with Sara’s family and his awkwardness was completely adorable but there is already a strong indication they will accept him with open arms when the time is right.
There is so much going in this novel that the murder mystery is not as complex as usual but that isn’t to say it’s not up to Slaughter’s usual standards as that is not the case. The dynamics of the relationships between the people involved are what is the main focus here as Sara calls into question the work ethics of the police department which is a direct attack on the people her husband once managed. Sara herself gets some leeway as Jeffrey’s widow but Will is not so fortunate and takes the brunt of their hostility. Looking at how the department has fallen apart, we see the impact Jeffrey’s death has had on others beside Sara and for once Lena seems like the only one who has it together.
Will and Sara’s relationship continues to grow, however there are a few bumps in the road when Sara discovers Will’s dyslexia and her attempts to help only seem to alienate him. Will is more vulnerable without Faith in his corner as she is about to give birth to her daughter and as Sara spends more time with Will, she quickly puts two and two together. Will is embarrassed that Sara knows the truth and takes offence at her attempts to help but eventually learns to accept it. Just as Sara and Will seem to be moving towards an understanding, he is dragged back to reality when Angie contacts him and he has to go home.
There are a few twists and turns in the plot as you would expect, particularly one concerning Lena that will surprise you and hints at unfinished business with Sara. While it was nice meeting some of the regulars from Grant County once more, it just underlines how Slaughter was right to break away from Heartsdale and I’m looking forward to Sara’s adventures with Will.