Atlanta, 1974: Amanda Wagner and Evelyn Mitchell are young, female police officers in a man’s world. A step up from secretaries, they are assigned to sex crimes and rarely see a serious case. When they are sent to Techwood Homes in the projects to speak to a rape victim, they find themselves in a world populated with drug users, prostitutes and the poor, a far cry from the white, middle class homes that Amanda is used to visiting. They are already suspicious of why they were sent out there, so when they realise the prostitutes are disappearing, they start to dig further. But the men aren’t happy, girls aren’t meant to be police after all…
This is really Amanda’s story. The woman introduced in 1974 is a world apart from the one we have come to know in the present day. She is the daughter of the notorious Duke who is currently on suspension pending investigation. She may think that the family name holds clout but she soon learns that it’s nothing to be proud of. She really wanted an office job and isn’t at all suited to a life of fighting crime, she’s more than happy writing up reports for the homicide detectives. Evelyn is another matter, everyone’s shocked that she returned to the force after giving birth, it’s not like she needs the money. Amanda’s father would disapprove of them being friends but despite their differences they become closer and Amanda slowly evolves into an independent woman who wants to be judged on her abilities not her gender.
Setting the story in the 70s has given Karin the opportunity to explore a period of change in Atlanta. Women’s rights were only starting to emerge and even finding somewhere to live without a man to sign things proved difficult. That women could be expected to uphold the law in the role of a police officer seemed laughable to many. Yet they offered equal pay so it was an attractive proposition to young women who dearly wanted to earn their own living. Evelyn and Amanda are ridiculed on a daily basis just because they are women although their intelligence, bravery, compassion and perseverance mean they end up doing a better job than anyone else.
The story does jump between the past and the present, with Amanda’s story revealing hidden parts of Will Trent’s past and going a long way to explain their unorthodox working relationship. Will and Sara’s relationship is still on rocky ground and he’s scared that she’ll leave him if she knows everything about him, that she is far too good for her. Whilst Criminal reveals a lot about him, his part in the plot is minimal so he comes across as a rather needy character if you haven’t grown to know and love him through earlier books. I would hope that he can start to put the past behind him and realise how amazing Sara is to him. It’s starting to get a bit annoying how Angie keeps popping up and being manipulative and setting him back all over again. Can we start a Liberate Will Trent campaign? And more Betty the Chihuahua please!
The moment that my brain started to make the connections between past and present, I didn’t want to put Criminal down. There are some incredibly moving moments between the characters and the historical element really puts into perspective how much has changed and we shouldn’t take our liberty for granted. Not to mention, Karin Slaughter manages to concoct disturbing criminal minds and makes you double check the locks before you go to sleep…
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