This is my second book by Karin Slaughter and I think “Pretty Girls” is almost as good as The Good Daughter and it even shares some of the common themes: fractured family caused by a murder/disappearance of a loved one, two sisters very different from each other working together to find the killer, a prolific serial killer on the lose.
More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.
The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.
Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.
The book is a psychological thriller for a reason. The disappearance of a loved one – the effects it had on the two loving parents and the two younger sisters, the trauma and the ways of coping with it. Lydia turned to drugs and sex and Claire wanted security which a guy called Paul could offer her. The thing with Paul is – he’s average looking compared to gorgeous Claire, and he’s described as a hermit crab looking for a shell by the mother and as a social chameleon by the father. Lydia hates him after he attempts to rape her in a secluded part of a forest and because no-one believes her, she moves away from the family.
It’s the truth. I’m sorry to be blunt about it, but girls don’t like guys who are doormats. Especially pretty girls, because there’s no novelty in it. Guys are hitting on them all of the time. They can’t walk down the street or order a coffee or stand on a corner without some idiot making a comment about how attractive they are. And the women smile because it’s easier than telling them to go fuck themselves. And less dangerous, because if a man rejects a woman, she goes home and cries for a few days. If a woman rejects a man, he can rape and kill her.
Years after the fact, when Paul is killed in an attempted robbery, Lydia travels all the way to his grave in order to have a pee over it. That’s when the two estranged sisters meet once more. They start uncovering dark, dark secrets that Paul kept – files containing names of women who’d been raped and who were still monitored years after their rapes on the anniversary of their traumatic event, and worse still – snuff porn.
Claire attempts to deliver the hard-drive to the sheriff’s office and ascertain whether the porn was real but the sheriff quickly dismisses her and takes her hard-drive away. But Claire and Lydia keep on finding more disturbing details: a house under a fake name that Paul had, hidden cameras and a three million $ embezzling suit that Paul’s best friend brought up.
The twist comes when the two sisters decide to visit the fake-name house to see where Paul’s supposedly other family lived at just to find it abandoned and with a room that looked like the one where the snuff porn was filmed in. So begins the actual plot of the book – Paul was nothing like the charming husband he looked like but more of a psychopath set on torture and violence of girls and then distributing the videos online to high payers in the country and abroad. And Paul wasn’t dead.
“People did not change their basic, core personalities. Their values tended to stay the same.”
After I was well into the book I started to realise that the gruesomeness might be too much for me. I was starting to skip over the descriptions (very graphic descriptions) and feeling quite bothered. Other readers may not have an issue with it but I just felt a bit overloaded with details of such horrific acts. I ended up having to skip over quite a few parts.
Overall, I wavered between giving this one 4 stars. I felt this book was extremely well written, the story kept my attention constantly-this is the definition of a suspenseful thriller (finished it in about 10h).
What I Liked: use of technology throughout the book. Paul was tracking Claire’s movements via hidden cameras and “Find my iPhone” function of her phone. They also had a Tesla and realistically stopped to charge it between moves. Lydia was also a well rounded mom character, wanting her daughter to know how to change a tire in under three minutes and how to defend herself. She also survives some brutal torture and is human enough not to want to kill the mofo.
I also liked the chapters where the father writes letters to his dead daughter, Julia. They were filled with so much emotion that they nearly made me cry everytime I read them and I don’t cry easily!
Your mother and I had always been secretly pleased that you were so headstrong and passionate about your causes. Once you were gone, we understood that these were the qualities that painted young men as smart and ambitious and young women as trouble.
What I didn’t like: Claire is pretty clueless. She spends half the time thinking: “I must think now!” rather than actually thinking. They should have called the police / CIA/FBI/media the moment they found the porn in the cabin instead of dallying around talking about their memories. They should have also involved as many different agencies early on when they found the porn on the machines in Claire’s house rather than go out in the wilderness armed with nothing to face a fake family. Instead Claire was suffering from “I can do this all by myself” syndrome which normally causes more issues than it fixes.