Thursday, 22 April 2010
Triptych by Karin Slaughter: A Review
I found "Triptych" by Karin Slaughter on the bookshelf of a nice little cafe in the dusty backstreets of Kabul. If I am honest I wouldn't have picked this book up unless it was free because I see myself as more of an Ellroy, Peace or Pelecanos man and thought that Triptych would perhaps be a little commercial for my tastes. I think I was probably right in my initial thoughts and as a result I would seriously consider whether I would read another of Slaughter's books.
First, in order to be fair, it is worth exploring some of the books good points. The writing style is pretty lucid and reads at a good pace which means that as a reader you do not suffer from boredom. The first section of the book has an interesting plot with some pretty decent development of a good, yet flawed, Atalanta PD detective. The second section of the book, whilst putting the reader out of kilter by focusing on a totally separate story and characters, is also interestingly done with some quasi-psychological insights into the mind of a killer.
Whilst this is not a one star book Triptych is still deeply flawed. The third part of the story just does not piece together in any way. Slaughter tries to bring the two previous sections together but resorts to using cheap ways to link characters. The decision to have three separate sections meant that none of the main characters were developed in any meaningful way. It is hard to care about any of the main, or peripheral, characters and the insights into their motivations are very weak and yet because of the way the plot twists all of your insights turnout to be meaningless anyway.
One of the biggest failures of this book is in relation to its setting of Atlanta. I do not know much about Atlanta and after reading nearly 500 pages of a book set there I am none the wiser. Slaughter claims in her authors note that she "tried to capture the flavor of my city". On this she resolutely failed. If you compare her depiction of Atalanta with that of Boston by Dennis Lehane or DC by George Pelecanos you can really see the flaws in her judgment. However the biggest problem with this book is the ending...it does not make any sense with the killer suddenly dropping his years of careful planning for no apparent reason. A suspension of disbelief is possible but this plot takes the biscuit.
It is clear that, to a degree, Slaughter had a good idea but the delivery on that idea just did not live up to expectations. When I finished the book I just felt like she had given up. The denouement is so unbelievable that it just beggars belief and leaves a sour taste due to the fact that she appeared to have such little respect for her readers.