Relationship issues take center stage in Slaughter's latest compelling mystery. Sheriff Jeffrey Tolliver and M.E. Sara Linton are rehashing their two-steps-forward, one-step-back love affair when they literally stumble over a dead body in the woods. The body, they soon discover, is that of teenager Abigail Bennett, who was buried in a wooden box under-ground and fed poison through a pipe.
When Jeff notifies the girl's parents, who operate a soybean farming collective and church, he finds Abby's relatives to be oddly close-lipped about the affair. The close-knit clan seems almost cult-like in their piousness, but when Abby's sister disappears and some shocking family skeletons are revealed, Jeff must discover if their goodness merely masks true evil.
The investigation here is less intensely dramatic than Slaughter's usual, but the ending is wrenching. Readers should enjoy the return of police officer Lena Adams, a complex anti-heroine whose ongoing struggle with an abusive lover is fiercely riveting. Strong characters and their myriad psychological issues and edgy interplay make for another engaging read by one of the genre's fastest-rising stars. (Sep., 393 pp., $25.00)