When Andy and her mother, Laura, go to the mall to celebrate her birthday, things turn violent when a teenage boy starts shooting people in the diner. While urging her daughter to flee, Laura draws the killer’s attention and Andy watches in horror as the killer then tries to stab her mother. However, Laura turns the tables on him and before long it is the boy who is lying dead at her feet.
A stunned Andy is barely able to comprehend how her mother, a cancer-survivor, could pull off such a manoeuvre but they have bigger things to worry about as the entire scene was filmed and is later shown on every news network. As Laura is hailed as a hero, a further act of violence forces Andy to go on the run. Following her mother’s instructions, Andy begins to realise her mother is not the person she thought she was but who is she exactly? Unable to trust anyone, Andy must try to piece the puzzle together if she is ever to learn the truth.
Pieces of Her is the latest standalone from Karin Slaughter and it is a slight departure from her previous books in the sense that the formula is slightly different. The main protagonist, Andy, moved back home three years prior to help look after her cancer-stricken mother but her life has been rather aimless to this point. Reluctant to return to New York, Andy has taken a job as a 911 operator while she figures out what she wants to do but her lack of ambition worries her parents. When violence erupts in the diner where they are having lunch, Andy can barely function which is in direct contrast to her mother who suddenly takes charge of the situation.
As the video of Laura’s actions in the diner go viral, she tells Andy she has to leave her house right away as it is time she stood on her own two feet. Still distraught over the diner incident, Andy is amazed by her mother’s reaction and arranges to stay with her step-father but an incident closer to home ends with the death of another man. Realising her mother has mother has been pushing her away to protect her, Andy is forced to go on the road with a handful of instructions but the clues she finds leave her even more confused.
Andy manages to piece some of the clues together but when she gets the chance to talk to people from her mother’s past she seems incapable of putting a full sentence together. Andy seems far younger than her years and there are a few hints her age is not quite right but this is not explored further. She’s also more naive than I would’ve expected from someone who had lived in New York for a while. I’m afraid I never warmed up to Andy because she comes across as a wet blanket tied to her mother’s apron strings and she doesn’t really improve.
Thankfully, Andy’s narrative is split with a timeline set in the 1980s which eventually takes us on a journey to discover Laura’s real identity. Being a Karin Slaughter novel, there are a few twists and turns along the way but there are enough clues for us to conclude Laura is actually Jane Queller, a former concert pianist. Jane and her brother, Andrew, are involved with an anarchist group led by their charismatic friend, Nick, who is also the father of Jane’s unborn child. Jane and Andrew become part of a series of plots, beginning with the murder of their own father, which brings them to the attention of the FBI.
The 1980s sections of the novel are far more interesting than the present ones as we watch Jane slowly come to the realisation the anarchist group is nothing more than a cult led by Nick who uses their weaknesses to keep his hold over them. Initially, Jane is meek like Andy but concern for the safety of her unborn child prompts her to act against Nick as she wants her child to be stronger than her. The psychological games Nick plays with them all are fascinating because he knows all the right buttons to push to keep them under his control so it is interesting when Jane starts to play him at his own game.
Unfortunately, the book got a little repetitive as it went along and I started getting bored with Andy and Jane’s introspection so it was a relief to get to the end.