For this week’s contribution to the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme I’ll take a look at Karin Slaughter’s Kisscut which I rated a 4 out of 5 when I read it back in 2004. It is the second of Slaughter’s Grant County series and, like all the books, focuses on dark topics. As it opens a teenage girl is threatening to shoot an older boy in the car park of the Heartsdale skating rink. Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver, who is at the rink on a date with his ex-wife Sara (who is also the area’s Coroner), is forced to shoot the girl to save the boy. During the girl’s autopsy Sara discovers that the girl has been subjected to years of abuse. Eventually police uncover a ring of incest and pedophilia that is truly hideous.
Putting aside for a moment the issue of the graphic violence in this series Kisscut is a taut narrative full of engaging characters. The relationship between Sara and Jeffrey is nicely explored with the two being former husband and wife but still needing to work together and, tentatively, thinking about the idea of re-kindling their romantic relationship. One of Jeffrey’s officers, Lena Adams, is also an interesting character having survived her own kidnap and rape and struggling to deal with the death of her sister. Because I did find this book so riveting I was very disappointed that the series deteriorated to the point of dullness and silliness as I described earlier this year when I reviewed Skin Privilege (the sixth book in the series). Whereas in Kisscut I found the characters interesting by the time they’d each had a half-dozen increasingly absurd tragedies in their relatively young lives they were more like caricatures by the time it came to Skin Privilege and the plotting had become far less taught too.
When it comes to the graphic nature of the content I can’t say Slaughter changed much over time. All the books, including Kisscut (which has a truly awful set of villains) have been about dark issues and have incorporated violence and explicit depictions of most of the horrid things one human being can do to another. However when the story is good and the characters believable, as in Kisscut, I can stomach such content as it doesn’t feel gratuitous. It’s when there’s nothing but descriptions of horrible mutilations and general despair and misery that I find myself resenting the graphic nature of books like this.
By about book four in this series I think the quality starts to seriously suffer but I try not to let that cloud my judgement of the earlier books, like Kisscut, which were solid examples of their sub-genre.