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Murder Among Friends

Our Discussion on "Pretty Girls" by Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter with Pretty Girls Cover

MAF Discussion Summary on:

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

As Karin herself has said, Slaughter is her real name – and it’s a good thing she doesn’t write romance.  We dealt with the elephant in the room first, and talked about how this is the darkest, most horrific story we’ve done as a group. Slaughter does not pull her punches in presenting the cruel, inhumane, torture women and girls in this story suffer.

She keeps a keen and intense eye on exactly what is driving the psychotic, serial killer behind this, but she has also written a spell-binding, richly-layered story with interesting growth arcs for all of its main characters.

No one questioned that Karin isn’t a master storyteller, but we did question if she needed to go as far as she did with it. We shared interviews with Karin where she talks about why the story goes where it does and how she feels that in order to fully appreciate, or even begin to understand what the victims and their families go through, she could not soften or avoid describing faithfully what has been done to the victims. We also agreed that she achieved a clear, honest presentation of these situations without gratuitous violence or lingering on the horrific. One of the killer’s rituals that disgusted us most was one that wasn’t particularly painful (in the face of the other things he did) but it was supremely humiliating and really demonstrated the killer’s complete disdain and contempt for his victims.

Given all of the negatives about the killer, we were impressed with how Karin still believable portrays the character’s ability to love and to truly understand and appreciate another character in the story. It made him that much more formidable and frightening a foe.

We noted how her main female characters, Claire, Lydia, and their mother Helen, were not especially likable at the start of the story, but we saw each grow as events unfolded and that as this happened the bonds between them all became stronger. Together with the elimination of its truly evil villain, we all read to the end to make sure that Lydia especially was ok.  We appreciated the positive direction all three “pretty girls” lives are taking at the end of the story. We felt it respected the journey that survivors make and that it was hopeful to show that at least some better things can come of it.

In the end assessment, the readers who finished the book were glad they finished it – but they were even more glad they had a place to come talk about it afterwards. It is a story that almost demands discussion and helped us to see how both the book and its author are intense, thoughtful, and no holds barred.

Some MAFers are going to try one of her other series, which may be a bit less violent and dark – but are just as good. While we choose to read a story like this sparingly, when we know it’s going to be as well written and presented as Pretty Girls, and that it can lead to a great discussion -- we’re open to giving it a shot.

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