Complex characters with credible relationships underpin this gripping prequel to Slaughter's Blindsighted (2001). Georgia pediatrician/medical examiner Sara Linton is visiting her ex-husband, Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver, when two malevolent strangers, hauntingly familiar to Sara, pull out guns at the station house, where several schoolchildren are on a class trip, and bloody mayhem ensues. The action shifts to the past, when new lovers Sara and Jeffrey detour to his hometown on their way to a beach weekend. A nostalgic tour of Jeffrey's youth turns sinister as buried secrets and injustices slowly come to light. An ugly midnight encounter with Jeffrey's sloshed mother sends Sara outside in time to hear gunshots from the neighboring house of Jeffrey's childhood friend Robert, a cop, who's found bleeding, gun in hand, across the bedroom from his dead victim. Sara is grateful to perform the autopsy, knowing there's more than meets the eye in this puzzling crime scene. The couple's budding romance is put to the test as Sara tries to coax answers from tight-lipped Jeffrey, whose silence and suspicious actions nourish her doubts. Slaughter's tightly disciplined rhythm and occasional sly humor keep readers hooked right up to the end. Agent, Victoria Sanders. (Aug. 1)
Forecast: Blurbs from Michael Connolly, Harlan Coben and Laura Lippman, plus a four-city author tour, will help build Slaughter's reputation for crime suspense.