The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter

Investigating the killing of a prisoner during a riot inside a state penitentiary, GBI investigator Will Trent is confronted with disturbing information. One of the inmates claims that he is innocent of a brutal attack for which he has always been the prime suspect.

The man insists that he was framed by a corrupt law enforcement team led by Jeffrey Tolliver and that the real culprit is still out there—a serial killer who has systematically been preying on women across the state for years. If Will reopens the investigation and implicates the dead police officer with a hero’s reputation of wrongdoing, the opportunistic convict is willing to provide the information GBI needs about the riot murder.

Only days ago, another young woman was viciously murdered in a state park in northern Georgia. Is it a fluke, or could there be a serial killer on the loose?

As Will Trent digs into both crimes it becomes clear that he must solve the cold case in order to find the answer. Yet nearly a decade has passed—time for memories to fade, witnesses to vanish, evidence to disappear, and lies to become truth. But Will can’t crack either mystery without the help of the one person he doesn’t want involved: his girlfriend and Jeffrey Tolliver’s widow, medical examiner Sara Linton.

Thoughts

The Silent Wife is the tenth book in the Will Trent series and it collides spectacularly with Slaughter’s previous Grant County series when an old investigation of Jeffrey Tolliver’s comes back to haunt Sara.

When Will Trent investigates the murder of an inmate at the penitentiary, the perpetrators are offered up by another prisoner, Daryl Nesbitt, who wants Will to reopen his case. The problem is Daryl was sent to prison for a series of murders in Grant County by Jeffrey Tolliver, the late husband of Sara, and he is reluctant to even contemplate it. However Nesbitt claims he can prove his innocence as he has collated information on the deaths of other women who were killed in the same way after Daryl was sent to prison.

When the GBI looks at the evidence, it doesn’t take them long to realise the wrong man was arrested and a serial killer has gone undetected. Will is desperate to keep Sara out of the investigation but she was the medical examiner for Grant County at that time and her involvement cannot be avoided. Will is forced to question Lena Adams, who was a rookie police officer in Jeffrey’s department, but she maintains she has destroyed her notebooks and can’t help them. As Will re-examines the cases that have gone undetected, the situation begins to take its toll on his relationship with Sara who is in turmoil as Jeffrey’s shadow looms large once again.

The narrative is in the past-present style as we return to Grant County in flashbacks and Jeffrey comes to the forefront. The investigation begins with the discovery of a dead girl in the woods at Grant Tech but Sara is horrified when she arrives and discovers Becky Caterino is still alive. Lena Adams, one of the first officers on the scene, failed to check for a pulse and valuable time was lost summoning medical aid. Lena’s failures are compounded when she lets the student who discovered Becky walk home alone and she later turns up dead. Under significant pressure to solve the murders, Jeffrey is desperate to find the killer and employs some questionable tactics. It’s also interesting watching the dynamic between Jeffrey and Sara as their marriage break up is more recent and it made me realise Will is a much better person than Jeffrey.

The case itself is pretty graphic and Sara has to perform an autopsy on an exhumed body which is fascinating but horrific at the same time. Tensions are running high in everybody as the reality of the horrific violence endured by these women becomes known and things start hitting a little too close to home for Sara. However, I feel this book went a long way in laying the ghost of Jeffrey to rest and I hope Sara can now move forward with her life with Will.

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