Title: Skin Privilege (6th in the Grant County series) (Beyond Reach in the US)
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: Arrow Books 
No. of Pages: 547
Sara Linton is a paediatrician and medical examiner in small town Georgia. The book opens with her being submitted to a deposition in a malpractice case which, while offering a valid insight into what’s wrong with health care in many countries these days, has nothing much to do with anything else. I suppose the fact that the entire town turns on her even though no case has been proven does provide a motivation for her to accompany her husband Jeffrey, the Sheriff of the same small town, out of town. When Jeffrey learns that his detective, Lena Adams, has been arrested in a different small town after she was discovered catatonic at the site of an explosion he and Sara set off to find out what happened. Lena escapes custody, the bodies start to pile up and everyone chases their tails for a while.
I’ve read the previous five books in this series and while they’re not my favourites of the genre I’ve always thought they were perfectly servicable, if a little incredible. I can’t say the same for Skin Privilege. Firstly it’s long. Unnecessarily so. This tiny extract might give you an idea why I think that
Jeffrey didn’t want to tie up his cell phone so he picked up the receiver by the couch and used his calling card to check their messages at home. No one had called, so he hung up and dialed the station. He entered the code and accessed his work voice mail.
Most of the book is as yawn-inducing as this passage. It is so full of such irrelevant details and so devoid of actual plot advancement that it reminded me of one of my favourite Monty Python sketches which tells the tale of an insurance salesman to whom nothing happens (if you go to the link do yourself a favour and listen to the 2 minute sketch). This slowness is combined with an utterly annoying structure, the book switches point of view and moves back and forwards in time in a way that completely fails to build up any tension, and by the time Slaughter starts the actual story (somewhere around page 430) I was past caring. The shock ending that had fans talking lost a lot of its impact for me because I was just so thrilled to be finished.
Then there’s the credibility factor. Between them Sara and Lena have been raped by a stranger, lost a sister to a serial killer, nearly lost a different sister to a different killer, been beaten and raped by a white supremacist boyfriend and had an abortion. And all of that took place before this book starts. So I found it impossible to believe the things that happened to either of these women in this book. Slaughter’s depiction of a small town turning on a much loved children’s doctor didn’t ring true at all, and nor did the string of events that happened around Lena. The secrets she discovered about her own family history were simply preposterous given the “everyone knows everyone’s business” picture of small town life Slaughter had gone to great lengths to depict. The rampant corruption at the heart of the story was equally improbable (I had the same reaction to it as I always do to those September 11 conspiracy theories). At some point very early on the “it’s gone too far” switch in my brain was flicked and I spent the rest of the book snickering as the trauma count piled up around each woman.
All of this was wrapped up in a layer of misery that made finishing this book feel like a punishment rather than the diversion it ought to have been. I can’t imagine too many true fans of the series were enamoured of the book and if you haven’t read any of the Grant County series I wouldn’t recommend you start here.
My rating 1/5.
Reviewed at Material Witness
Slaughter’s next book, titled Undone in the US and Genesis for the rest of us, is due out in July 2009. It’s apparently set three years later than this book and looks to join the Grant County series with Slaughter’s Will Trent series. I’ve yet to decide if I’ll give it a go after the disappointment of this one although the first Will Trent book was one of my favourite reads of last year (narrowly missing out on a place in my top ten).