Broken [ Delacorte Press 2010, 416 pages] by Karin Slaughter is marketed as the 7th book in the Grant County series. The author combined the Will Trent series (Triptych) with the Grant County series in Undone. The Grant County series followed Dr. Sara Linton along with her ex-husband, police officer, Jefferey Tolliver. Sara was the town’s pediatrician and part-time coroner. The following article contains spoilers so I don’t recommend reading beyond the break.
Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation drives down from Atlanta to the small town of Grant County to investigate the circumstances surrounding a suspect who dies in police custody. Detective Lena Adams makes her first appearance since Beyond Reach and as usual, she’s already involved in a mess. On a early, cold and rainy morning, a body of a young woman is fished out of the lake. She’s identified as Amanda Spooner, a college student who worked at the local diner. The crime scene shows signs of a suicide but a fatal stab wound at the back of the neck negates that possibility.
Detective Lena Adams and interim Chief, Frank Wallace, track down the suspect, Tommy Braham, to his apartment. The bust goes bad when the suspect flees. Lena gets grazed by a bullet and another cop gets stabbed. They catch the suspect and throw him in jail for the murder of Amanda Spooner. Lena coerces a confession from him and later, Tommy commits suicide. He leaves a note behind saying “not me,” denying any involvement in the girl’s murder.
Dr. Sara Linton drives down from Atlanta to Grant County after a four year absence. She works in the ER at Grady hospital. She’s visiting her family for the Thanksgiving holiday but finds herself immersed in instigating an investigation of criminal negligence against Detective Lena Adams. Sara’s always blamed Lena for her husband’s death. Lena’s ex-boyfriend was in prison and had threatened Jeffery. Then one day he goes to his mailbox and inside there’s a pipe bomb. When Sara learns that Tommy, a former patient of hers, died in police custody and that Lena was the arresting officer, Sara sees an opportunity to go after Lena. She skips over local protocol and alerts the deputy director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Atlanta and they send Will Trent in to investigate.
Since Jeffery’s death, the police force in Grant County has become corrupt. To borrow the title of this book, it’s broken. Interim chief, Frank Wallace, is an alcoholic and a crooked cop. Lena wants to resign after seeing the department fall into disrepair. She only stayed out of respect for Jeffery. But Jefferey’s gone and the cops are continually crossing the line and taking shortcuts and she wants no part of it anymore. So she’s studying to get her criminal science degree and wants to move to Macon to live with her boyfriend.
When Will arrives in Grant County, he finds himself facing a hostile police force. He bumps heads with Lena first and manages to shred her case against Tommy and in the end, he makes her doubt herself. It’s revealed that Tommy was mentally slow. Many of the locals refer to him as being retarded. The murder at the lake was committed by someone calculating and methodical and the profile just doesn’t add up to implicating Tommy. Lena is regretful and shattered when she takes the blame for Tommy’s death. The rest of the story has Will going through the motions of investigating the police department, making sure they followed proper legal procedures. He’s also beset with the task of finding the real murderer.
Overall, Broken was a huge disappointment for me. After about sixteen chapters, the last fourth of the book fell completely apart. For starters, the villain appeared out of nowhere. I wasn’t surprised or shocked by the revelation. Just puzzled. Where were the clues pointing to this person?
The pairing of Will Trent with Sara Linton just doesn’t work for me. It’s problematic actually and here’s why: Will tells Sara upfront that he’s here to do his job and that he can’t take sides. He knows that Sara blames Lena for Jefferey’s death. But, unfortunately, he does take sides – Sara’s and that upset me and made me put the book down. It’s enough to contend with Sara portraying the weepy widow of a fallen cop but to have almost everyone side with her in thinking that Lena is evil was just too much. The author indirectly exonerates Lena but still that’s not enough for me. I felt Will acted out of character and just like that, she diminished him in my eyes.
Karin Slaughter has always been able to write well but the direction of this series is uncertain. Besides the pairing of Sara and Will that I find irksome, I find that Lena, who is the most interesting character in this series since Jefferey’s death, might be exiting this series for good herself. . I was more than willing to follow along if was just Will but when the author decided to join the two series together, I was open to see how this would evolve. But with Will making moon eyes after Sarah, I am, at least partly, uninterested in following this series anymore.
Overall, Broken is probably the weakest addition to the series and I say that only because the author made Will Trent act so stupidly. The last fourth of the book fell apart, badly, revealing a murderer who appears out of thin air. And the motive behind the murders is a first for me involving the ethics of health care providers and the pharmaceutical industry. In a nutshell, it was weak. While the writing captivated me, the story did not. So, my grade? Average. C.