Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter



Andrea Oliver knows everything about her mother Laura. She knows she’s always lived in the small town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Then one day, a trip to the mall explodes into a shocking act of violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura.

Hours later, Laura is in hospital, her face splashed over the newspapers. But the danger has only just begun. Now, Andrea must go on a desperate race to uncover the secrets of her mother’s past. If she can’t, there may be no future for either of them…


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 she and her mother 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, Andy is amazed by her mother’s reaction and arranges to stay with her stepfather but an incident closer to home ends with the death of another man. Realising her 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 has 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.