REVIEW: THE KEPT WOMAN, BY KARIN SLAUGHTER

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A murder at a construction site in Atlanta turns into so much more when the victim is revealed to be an ex-cop. And not a good cop. Dale Harding is even more dark and troubled than anyone knows at the beginning of our story, but before the final denouement, his nefarious connections will be revealed.

Will Trent is one of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s agents called to the scene, and his lover, Sara Linton, is the medical examiner.

The crime scene soon reveals that the massive amount of blood found does not belong to Harding, and the search is on for the other victim.

As we meet each of the detectives, we soon learn that there is something off about one of them. The connections between Harding and others from Will’s past add layers to the story, and before long, we are offered a glimpse into his childhood abuse. We are introduced to some of the others caught up in the foster care system with him, one of whom was his wife Angie Polaski. A wife with whom he has not lived in a long while, but who somehow manages to insert herself into his life whenever she chooses, stalking him and Sara, and leaving notes in strange places. The somewhat symbiotic relationship between them causes all kinds of trouble for Will…and for Sara.

Early on, we are also introduced to a group of sports agents, headed by Kip Kilpatrick, whose goal is to protect their clients at all costs, even when they have committed crimes. What, if anything, does Harding’s murder have to do with Kilpatrick and his group? How do the dark pasts of Harding, Will, Angie, and others connect to the events in the present?

A somewhat convoluted story with alternating narrators that gradually reveal all kinds of connections, The Kept Woman was thoroughly engaging, keeping me glued to the pages throughout. At one point, we also got to see Angie’s perspective, which lent some insight into her actions. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: WIFE-IN-LAW, BY HAYWOOD SMITH

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In suburban Atlanta, two completely opposite young women meet as neighbors, and despite the odds, become best friends. It was the 1970s when they first met, so imagine Betsy Callison’s surprise to discover that beneath the surface, she and the young “hippie” Kat Ellis would have something in common. They would bond and sustain that bond for many years.

Betsy and Greg are young Republicans, diametrically opposed politically to Kat and her partner Zach. But over time, the differences mattered less than what connected them. Or so it would seem.

But time and circumstance would change everything, and Betsy would find herself in a very strange situation. Greg has left her for his secretary, and then, a few months later, when Kat is widowed after Zach’s death, Greg starts spending a lot of time with her. When the two of them announce they are getting married, everything seems suddenly surreal.

Would what Betsy knows about Greg be something she could share with Kat, who is suddenly going to marry her ex-husband? And after the wedding, when she realizes that Greg has poisoned her friend against her, will she be able to warn her when old patterns begin to repeat themselves?

Wife-in-Law started out much better than it ended, in my opinion. I liked the first person narrative of Betsy in the present day, and then as she started sharing bits and pieces of the past, I felt I was there with them. The era of the 70s felt real and appropriate for the times; but suddenly, the narrative sped ahead and it seemed as though we were being “told” about what happened, when being shown worked so much better for me.

Betsy’s actions later in the book seemed out-of-character. She was too forgiving and too good…and in the end, her behavior ended up sugar-coated and sweet, which was not where I thought the story would go. I normally love this author’s books, but except for the beginning, this one was disappointing. 3.5 stars.