Sunday, August 19, 2018

Pieces of Her

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
HarperCollins: 8/21/18
eBook review copy; 480 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062430274

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter is a compelling and complicated character driven mystery that follows two timelines. This excellent novel is very highly recommended.

It is Andrea (Andy) Cooper's 31st birthday and she is meeting her mother, Laura, for breakfast at the Rise-n-Dine in the mall.  Andy left NYC to move back home to help her when Laura told her she had cancer three years ago. Now Andy is living above her garage and working the night shift as a 911 operator in Belle Isle, Georgia. Truthfully, though, Andy sacrifice nothing moving back home. She acts much younger than her years and her life has been basically aimless and purposeless. She is swimming in college loan debt and she has trouble verbalizing her thoughts in conversations. It may be due to being the only child of high achieving parents. Her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist, while her father, Gordon, is a trusts and estates attorney. Now her mother is telling her it is time for her to move out, grow up, and make her own life.

While the idea that she is being kicked out of her mother's house is surprising, it is not as shocking as the whole different side to her mother that Andy experiences when a gunman comes into the diner and begins shooting, killing two women. Laura immediately jumps up and takes action, pushing Andy out of the way, trying to get the killer to shoot her, and then neatly and dispassionately dispatching him. Andy is in shock, her mother is hospitalized, and the police are asking questions. How well did Andy really know her mother, this woman who stepped up to stop a killer? And then her life becomes even more complicated when her mother sends her on the run and apparently has had a secret life in her past, a life that means she had to be prepared for contingencies that might require being on the run. 

There are two timelines, the present day, with Andy on the run and in the 1980's when Laura went by another name and was part of a group of amateur terrorists. Both timelines are equally fraught with tension and new revelations. The suspense is acute and consuming as more secrets are revealed and new dangers loom. Andy begins her journey in shock and lacking many of the skills she needs to survive.

As expected, the writing is excellent and the plot is compelling and engrossing. Slaughter is well known for her sophisticated thrillers and Pieces of Her is a wonderful addition to her body of work. For those who want a thriller, there are enough heart-stopping moments to satisfy you, although I would describe Pieces of Her as more of a character driven mystery as it follows Andy on the run and reveals events in Laura's past.

The characters are extremely detailed and well-developed. They are presented as complete people, with secrets, weaknesses, doubts, flaws, and strengths. There is growth, especially in Andy, as she is tested and expected to act on her own without anyone to fall back on for the first time in her life. She is also, naturally, driven to uncover Laura's secret past and how it relates to them now and the current situation, as anyone would be if they discovered their mother might not be the person you've always thought she was.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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