In a stifling jail cell in a hardscrabble Georgia town, Detective Lena Adams sits in stubborn silence: bruised, angry, and the only suspect in a horrific murder that left a woman incinerated beyond recognition.
A hundred miles away, Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver has gotten the call that his young detective has been arrested. Jeffrey’s wife, pediatrician and medical examiner Sara Linton, has little patience for Lena or her dramas. Fighting a heartbreaking malpractice suit, struggling to pick up the pieces of a shattered career, the last thing Sara needs is to see Jeffrey playing Lena’s knight in shining armor. Sara cannot guess that within days she herself will be at the center of a bizarre and murderous case.
For Lena has fled back to the place where she grew up hard, careening back through the shadows of her past and into a shocking underground world of bigotry and rage.
Skin Privilege, the sixth and final instalment of the Grant County series, sees Sara and Jeffrey become embroiled in the murky past of Detective Lena Adams when she is arrested for murder in her home town. As usual, Lena isn’t answering anyone’s questions and when she escapes custody, she triggers a chain of events which will lead Sara and Jeffrey into grave danger.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I despise Lena Adams with a passion as she seems to tarnish everything she touches and the great chip on her shoulder does her no favours. The Grant County series began with Lena’s twin sister, Sibyl, being murdered and Lena being eventually raped by the same perpetrator, however Lena seems to have a destructive nature which leads to her becoming embroiled in dangerous situations. As the series progresses, she becomes involved in a relationship with a violent younger man and while those around her can see what is going on, she pushes them away and becomes increasingly hostile. It is her hostility and downright cruelty that kills any sympathy I could ever muster for her character and she gets far too much attention in this series.
In Skin Privilege, we learn more about Lena’s past as she tries to work out why her uncle Hank has started using again and dark secrets are revealed about her parentage and the accident that caused Sibyl’s blindness. There’s no doubt Lena had a rough childhood but while Sibyl made the most of it by forming relationships, Lena seems to have become increasingly abrasive and continues to push people away.
Lena’s latest self-destruct mission will have serious repercussions for Sara though and her world is about to be shattered. As Jeffrey is called to Reece where Lena has been arrested, Sara decides to accompany him as she is keen to get out of town where a malpractice suit is hanging over her head after the death of a young patient. Despite the lawsuit, things have been going well for Sara and Jeffrey in their marriage and they have registered with an adoption agency. As a victim of a brutal rape herself, Sara is unable to have children of her own and she is looking forward to having a family with Jeffrey.
When Lena refuses to talk about what’s happened to her, Sara gets increasingly frustrated by her attitude, especially since Jeffrey is risking his own career and maybe even his life in helping her. As the case gets more complicated and the body count increases, it begins to look like corruption is running through the heart of the Reece police department. When Lena turns up again, she begs Sara and Jeffrey to leave town for their own safety but things have progressed too far for that and long buried secrets are about to surface.
While the case itself is nothing startling in comparison to the other books in the Grant County series, Skin Privilege has one of the most shocking endings I’ve ever read and it’s complete unexpectedness prompted a lot of hatred towards the author, so much so, Karin Slaughter was forced to write an open letter on her website explaining why she felt it was necessary to do what she did. As it has been almost ten years since the book was written and most readers will know what’s happened, especially if they went on to read the Will Trent series, I am not withholding spoilers so be warned.
With the case wrapped up, Sara and Jeffrey return home to discover a message from the adoption agency stating they may have a boy for them to adopt, however as Jeffrey heads outside to check their mail box, he is caught in an explosion and dies in Sara’s arms. After getting to know these characters over five books and watching them come to terms with the failure of their first marriage, it was downright brutal to lose a leading character in this way. I hated it at the time, even though I could see why Slaughter chose to do it, and I really couldn’t see how Sara would ever get over this tragedy. As Slaughter turned her attention to the Will Trent series, I had no idea she intended to merge the two together by having Sara move back to Atlanta and eventually falling in love with Will. It takes a long time for Sara to get to that stage though, but it is okay since it gives us time to fall in love with Will too.