It begins with an abduction. The routine of a family shopping trip is shattered when Michelle Spivey is snatched as she leaves the mall with her young daughter. The police search for her, her partner pleads for her release, but in the end…they find nothing. It’s as if she disappeared into thin air.
A month later, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, medical examiner Sara Linton is at lunch with her boyfriend Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But the serenity of the summer’s day is broken by the wail of sirens.
Sara and Will are trained to help in an emergency. Their jobs – their vocations – mean that they run towards a crisis, not away from it. But on this one terrible day that instinct betrays them both. Within hours the situation has spiralled out of control; Sara is taken prisoner; Will is forced undercover. And the fallout will lead them into the Appalachian mountains, to the terrible truth about what really happened to Michelle, and to a remote compound where a radical group has murder in mind…
The Last Widow is the ninth novel in the Will Trent series and probably the best one to date. Will is spending time with Sara’s family when a series of explosions happen on a nearby campus and they both rush to see what is happening. Before they can get there, Sara stops to help at the scene of a car accident, however it transpires the victims are not what they seem and Sara is abducted. Injured himself, Will can only look on helplessly as the woman he loves more than life itself is taken from him at gunpoint.
Sara’s abductors turn out to be a white supremacist group who live in a remote compound in the Appalachian mountains with their families and have diabolical plans to reclaim the county from the lesser races. Since her captors know Sara is a doctor, they want to use her skills to help the children on the compound who have contracted measles. While Sara is appalled the children have not been vaccinated, Slaughter doesn’t pull any punches in describing how these children are suffering and are likely to have lifelong complications if they survive. While I knew measles could be deadly, I had no idea about SSPE (Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis) and was horrified when I looked it up. As a family tree researcher, I have plenty of evidence of children dying from measles on my tree and believe vaccinations should be made compulsory.
There is a lot going on in this novel and for once the actual crimes are the less scary part, as bad as the measles epidemic seems there is worse to come as Sara suspects the group are dabbling in biological warfare. The toxin of choice is botulism and the chapters detailing in-depth how it is caught naturally are terrifying enough without having to worry about someone deliberately spreading it.
Slaughter gets right into the heads of the white supremacists in such a convincing manner, it helps you understand where these people are coming from and why they think the way they do. However, she is no way sympathetic to their cause and the condemnation is right there with it. Our main villain, Dash, is a nuanced character with a great deal of charm so it is easy to understand why he has swayed so many vulnerable people to join his cause. It is never more evident than with the young men who feel so disassociated from everything and want so desperately to believe in something.
On the personal front, Will is now divorced and under pressure from Sara’s parents to make their relationship more permanent since they are not too happy the couple are practically living together. However, when Sara is kidnapped, Will gets a really hard time from Cathy Linton who accuses him of not fighting for her like Jeffrey Tolliver would have done. Cathy’s worry for her daughter makes her cruel at times so it’s going to be interesting to see how the relationship develops.
The story is also narrated in a slightly different format than normal as we get the same scenes told from the point of view of different characters. The story takes place over a short period of time and the narrative slows the pace down somewhat which does get a little bit irritating at some points. The funniest thing was when it served to highlight how wrong Sara and Will were interpreting each other’s thoughts in the same scene. I loved the scene where Will helpfully clears away a squished bug from Sara’s forehead but she thinks it is a sign he is wondering what’s going on in her head.
It’s always a bittersweet moment when I finish a Will Trent novel because it makes me desperate for the next one.