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Faithless    by Karin Slaughter order for
by Karin Slaughter
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Pediatrician/coroner Sara Linton and her ex-husband, Grant County Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver, continue their dance of strong attraction and vehement misunderstandings in this fifth in the series, Faithless. You have to feel sorry for Tolliver, who's been trying to reconcile with Sara ever since a one night fling drove them apart. Now, he has to disclose to his ex-wife frightening medical consequences of his brief liaison.

The duo stumble (literally) upon a site in the woods, where a pregnant young woman was buried alive, and left to a terrible, painful death. Abigail Bennett belonged to a devout farming family, who run a Church for the Greater Good and the Holy Grown Soy Cooperative. The latter employs, and attempts to save, Atlanta 'lost souls' - via an outreach to transients, ex-cons, the homeless, and abused women. Jeffrey tells detective Lena Adams to control her cynicism and biases, but it soon becomes clear that there is more to the church and cooperative than shows on the surface. Soon another young woman goes missing - Abby's sister Rebecca. And Jeffrey worries when Sara agrees to attend a church meeting, at her sister Tessa's request.

Lena has her own problems, as always. She begins the episode with an abortion, and agonizes over her inability to resist her ongoing relationship with the abusive, angry Ethan. At the same time, an old boyfriend, Greg, comes back into her orbit. Lena recognizes a woman that she interviews about the case - Terri Stanley - from the abortion clinic, and realizes that Terri is being abused by her husband Dale. This causes her to make a mistake that affects the outcome of the police investigation. They find drug connections, as well as a long history of systematic abuse, of both girls and women. And, of course, there are more deaths, leading to a violent confrontation with a greedy killer.

Though this may sound like the over-used stereotype of an abusive cult of bible thumpers, it's not that simple - this plot throws up many surprises. I enjoyed seeing Lena back in a larger role, especially watching her learn from another woman's example to extract herself from her destructive spiral. Karin Slaughter is at the top of her game in Faithless, which by the way has an unusual bookcover - a plastic overlay of thorns on top of the hardcover's image of a young woman's face. Don't miss this engrossing thriller.

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