TRIPTYCH
Karin Slaughter

 


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Random House Australia, August 2006
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith

Thriller/Crime Fiction

Georgia is a Southern American state that author Karin Slaughter knows well. She grew up there. TRIPTYCH is a stand-alone thriller set in Atlanta, Georgia but for me the setting didn't seem particularly important: anywhere that has slum housing, seedy low life, and prostitutes would do. It is the meaning of the title TRIPTYCH that holds this book together and I am not sure whether I am right about its final meaning.

A triptych is a work of art (usually a panel painting) divided into three sections, or three carved panels hinged together. The central panel is the most important one, flanked on either side by two lesser but related paintings that fold over it. The whole is intended to be greater than the sum of the parts.

In TRIPTYCH we have a novel in three parts, a trio of investigators, and a moment in time seen from three points of view.

February 2006, Atlanta Georgia: Michael Ormewood is a police detective in charge of a murder investigation where the victim is found in a stairwell in a pool of her own blood - with her tongue missing. A number of similar cases have occurred in Atlanta in the last eight months. Special Agent Will Trent has recently been transferred to Georgia's the Criminal Apprehension Team. He and Ormewood have to work together and hate each other at first sight. Angie Polaski of the Vice Squad is the link between the two. She has a long history with Trent and a more recent liaison with Ormewood.

TRIPTYCH opens with a newspaper report from 1985. Fifteen year old Mary Alice Finney has been found murdered. Her body has been significantly mutilated. Within the first fifty pages we learn that a fellow student has been arrested for Mary Alice's murder. Twenty one years on, in 2006, the convicted murderer has now been released. Are the events of 1985 and 2006 linked? While Michael Ormewood seems to think they may be, Will Trent and Angie Polaski have their doubts.

The structure of this novel is both fascinating and challenging. Like so many recent novels, this story slips easily from one time frame to another. There are plenty of clues about which time zone we are in - specially formatted pages, dates - but occasionally the reader is left to judge from the characters and events.

TRIPTYCH is Karin Slaughter's first stand-alone novel. Her previous publications have all been part of the "Grant" series published 2001-2005, which features Dr. Sara Linton, pediatrician and coroner, Jeffrey Tolliver, her wayward ex-husband and chief of police, and Lena Adams, female detective. The series has been immensely popular and has made Slaughter well-known in a relatively short time. Slaughter's fans however will not be disappointed in TRIPTYCH. Although I felt I knew the answer to the central mystery of the novel, who really killed Mary Alice Finney?, for almost half the novel, the need to know the final outcome kept me reading.

There are various audio files for TRIPTYCH available on the author's website, specifically at http://www.karinslaughter.com/audio.html, including interviews and Karin reading the first chapter.

Sep 2006 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem
 

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