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Onyx reviews: Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

Dr. Sara Linton does double duty as pediatrician and medical examiner in the small Georgia town of Heartsdale. She is late for lunch with her sister when she makes a gruesome discovery in the local diner. A blind chemistry professor from the college has been raped and viciously attacked in the bathroom. The victim, Sibyl Adams, is the twin sister of the county's only female police detective, Lena Adams. Sibyl also happens to be gay, living discretely with the local librarian. Sara arrives on the scene just in time for the woman to die in her arms.

The murder has ritualistic elements—abdominal wounds form a deliberate cross - and the autopsy reveals other grizzly details, including the fact that Sibyl had been given poisonous belladonna shortly before her murder.

The college has been key to Heartsdale's prosperity in recent years while nearby towns have collapsed into poverty. Keeping the college happy is one of Chief Jeffrey Tolliver's primary charges.

Tolliver and Sara Linton's marriage dissolved two years earlier because of his infidelity. Still, it is impossible for the two to divorce completely because of their professional relationship. As coroner, Sara must work closely with Tolliver and the police. Her family occasionally wonders aloud why she doesn't resign to avoid this enforced contact. Her mother and sister seem to have a better handle on the unresolved relationship than Sara does, and they often pressure her to reconsider her decision to separate from Tolliver.

Detective Lena Adams is a loose canon. An uncle—who was both a drug addict and an alcoholic—raised Lena and Sibyl and was responsible for Sibyl's blindness. Her sister's death has unhinged Lena. Tolliver is unable to reassign her to another case, and his efforts to keep her in the periphery of this investigation are fruitless. Her carelessness with one of the killer's victims contributes to her downward spiral.

Ritualistic killings are often the sign of a serial killer, so Sara and Tolliver are justifiably concerned when a young college student who bears a strong resemblance to Sibyl Adams is reported missing. The investigators are forced to accept that it may be someone living in their midst who is responsible for Sibyl's murder, and for the attacks that follow. It might even be someone from the police force, where most of the older guard also belongs to the fraternal lodge, which has its own code of silence and retribution.

Blindsighted is the first of three thrillers from new—and aptly named—author Karin Slaughter. If the story has a shortcoming, it is a dearth of viable suspects. While the killer is clearly not an outsider, Slaughter does not produce a large enough pool of likely candidates among the town's residents. That's not to say that when the killer is revealed it doesn't come as something of a surprise, but ultimately, he's almost it by default. Still, the author capably handles the intricacies of small town issues, including the reaction to the murder of a lesbian and simmering racial distrust

Like most good fiction, Blindsighted is character driven. The plot, while compelling and deftly handled, is a vehicle to explore the characters of Sara, Jeffrey and Lena. Jeffrey Tolliver is still desperately in love with his ex-wife, begging her to forgive him for his one-time indiscretion. Sara vacillates between wanting to be with Jeffrey—even if only for temporary comfort—and resenting him for his behavior.

Over the course of the investigation, Jeffrey discovers things about Sara he never knew during their six-year marriage, things that help explain why things went as they did. It will be interesting to see in the upcoming sequels how their tension is resolved.

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