False Witness by Karin Slaughter

Nothing bad happens to the cat…

😦

Back when they were teenagers, sisters Callie and Leigh committed a terrible crime, although they had good justification for it. Since then, Callie has spiralled into drug addiction, partly because of this early experience, and partly from getting hooked on pain medication after an accident that has left her with all kinds of physical problems. Leigh, on the other hand, has lifted herself out of their deprived beginnings, becoming a lawyer now working in a prestigious firm. One day she is asked to defend a man who has been charged with a horrific rape. She doesn’t recognise Andrew at first, but he recognises her – and he knows what she and Callie did that night. And it soon becomes clear he’s enjoying the power this gives him over both sisters…

I’ll admit it straight away – I found the subject matter of this sordid and the graphic descriptions of rape, extreme drug abuse, violence and gore more than distasteful. The constant, casual use of the foulest of foul language didn’t help matters. By the time I finished I felt that I needed to scrub my mind out with a brillo pad to get rid of the slime. Slaughter and I are clearly not kindred spirits.

Trying to be objective, it is well written for the most part and the characterisation of the two sisters is done well, even if that meant that I disliked both of them to the point of not wishing to spend time in their company and not caring what happened to them. Andrew, the rapist client of Leigh, is a stock psychopath from central casting, caricatured way past the point of credibility. But all three of them are merely vehicles for Slaughter to use her clearly well-practised shock tactics on the reader. The plot is entirely secondary to the horrors she shows us along the way, from repeated descriptions of both child and adult rape of the most violent kind, to the lovingly detailed and very lengthy descriptions of Callie’s drug taking, including how best to inject oneself through an abscess to get the thrill of added pain, to violent beatings in which she lingers on the crushed bones, detached eyeballs, etc., etc.

Karin Slaughter

Apart from my general disgust, the real problem from a literary point of view is that it’s incredibly repetitive. We revisit the original event many, many times – not gradually learning more, we already know what happened, but just going over it again and again which, since it involves child rape, I could seriously have lived without. We are told the same things about Callie’s physical problems every time her name is mentioned, and yet, despite their apparently debilitating effects, they never stop her when she wants to beat up someone much larger than herself or climb over a fence or in some other way channel Superwoman – heroin must be a miracle drug! Slaughter incorporates Covid, so we get masking and social distancing thrown at us constantly, as if we haven’t all heard enough about that in real life already. The whole book could have been cut by at least a third simply by removing the worst of the repetitions. If she had also removed the foul language and the loving instructional handbook on how to get the most out of drug abuse, I reckon she could have lost another hundred pages. Take out the graphic descriptions of rape and violence and we’re down to novella length…

Nope, not for me, though since she has a massive following I don’t expect that will bother her too much. If you haven’t already gathered, trigger warnings for just about everything you can think of and several things you probably can’t. But, on the upside, nothing bad happens to the cat.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

54 thoughts on “False Witness by Karin Slaughter

  1. Nope, nothing here for me either. Thanks for your thoughtful review. I think maybe an unconscious suggestion from the author’s name has kept from looking at any of her books (unfair though that may be).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Any time I’ve looked at reviews of her books I’ve felt they wouldn’t be for me, but since I got sent a copy of this one I thought I’d at least try it. Ugh! Lesson learned! Yes, I’ve often wondered if it was a pseudonym but I think I read somewhere it’s her real name. I wonder what her books would have been like if she’d been called Karin Love… 😉

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  2. I’ve read several books by this author and enjoyed them but you’re not the first reviewer that feels it’s far too graphic and, by the sound of it, too gratuitous. It seems to be the general trend, on TV as well. Less is more, as far as I’m concerned.

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  3. This is definitely not for me, either, with the graphic descriptions and not caring about the characters. And I think it’s going to be a long time before I can read a book that’s constantly mentioning masks and social distancing – I want a break from all that rather than the reverse!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are some subjects that I simply don’t think are appropriate for crime fiction since it’s a form of entertainment, and child rape is one of them. Ha, yes, the Covid stuff was intensely annoying – we read to escape real life not be reminded of it! Maybe one day we’ll look back on social distancing and all that stuff with nostalgia, but I doubt it…

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  4. Repetition, foul language, descriptive about things like rape and drug use… but, at least, not animal cruelty… Not a book for me either, I would have DNF after 50 pages or even less.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m afraid trauma porn isn’t my bag, so thanks for the warning to stay away from this. You did well managing to read the book right through though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you used the word porn – it was on the tip of my fingers all the time I was typing the review. I particularly dislike when authors use child abuse in a book which is basically an entertainment – for some strange reason I don’t find that subject entertaining at all! I mostly stuck with it because I was trying to work out why she’s so popular, but no, I’m still baffled.

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    • Ha, I must admit I totally agree! I get the whole “don’t ban books” thing, but honestly, when child rape is being used to entertain I think there’s a good argument to be made that the world would be better off without such books. Imagine this one on the shelf in a school library…

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  6. Hmm….thinking…thinking.. nope, not for me. Like you, FictionFan, I’m not one for sordid and foulest-of-foul. Rarely do those things serve a story, and a story filled with them puts me right off and sends me running for the shower. Slaughter does write well, and I can see how the characters were well done. But no. Just no.

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    • My tolerance for this kind of thing is definitely lessening with age, perhaps because I see how revolting our societies are becoming in general – common decency seems to be considered out-dated these days! I have to face facts – I’ve turned into my mother! 👵 😉

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    • Haha, yes, I was deeply worried she’d do something awful to the cat, but even she must feel there are limits… 😉 Nope, way too graphic for me, and there are some subjects I just don’t feel are suitable for a book that is basically setting out to entertain.

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  7. I actually think, I’ve read one of her books a long time ago, but I may have mixed her up with another author. At least I don’t remember any foul language or gory details. For sure, I will stay away from this one (although good to know that nothing bad happened to the cat! 😆)

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    • This is the only one I’ve read, so I don’t know whether it’s typical of her style, although I must admit I’ve always kind of assumed from reviews that she wouldn’t be for me. I really can’t be bothered with writers who use a lot of foul language – would she talk to a stranger like that face to face? Then why would she think I want her to talk to me like that on paper? And I’m afraid there are some subjects I don’t think are appropriate in a book that is basically supposed to be entertaining. I have to face it – I’ve turned into my mother! 😉

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  8. I read her first book, Blindsighted, and I liked it although I think it was incredibly violent and scary. That was years ago. I bought the second one but never did read it. Maybe I will still read that one just to see, but definitely this book doesn’t sound like my kind of thing.

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    • I’m more reluctant to read graphic books as I age, but it was really the subject matter of this one that I hated – I don’t think child rape is a suitable subject in a book that basically is supposed to be an entertainment. And foul language always puts me off – it’s so unnecessary and shows a real lack of either imagination or decency. I have to face the fact that I’ve turned into my mother! 😉

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    • Yes, I’ve never been attracted by reviews of her books, but since I got sent this one by the publisher I thought I’d try to see why so many people love her. But nope, I’m still baffled. I really can’t understand why anyone thinks that child rape is a suitable subject in a book that is basically simply setting out to entertain… ugh!

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  9. I’m impressed but also astonished that you managed to read through to the end of this—I can never understand the point of novels like this, a fictional equivalent of the misery memoirs that bookshops once reserved a whole bookcase display for or even the under-the-counter porn titles stocked by seedy outlets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t get it either, but there certainly seems to be a huge market for them. It seems nothing is off limits as “entertainment” these days – not even horrific child abuse. I don’t like to sound like a grumpy old granny if I can avoid it, but it does make me wonder what kind of society we have created.

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  10. Thank heavens the cat remains unsullied. Having taken time – approx 1 millisecond seemed appropriate – I have decided to pass on this treasure. Enjoyed the review though. I got quite excited at seeing just the 1 star 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m so speechless, my speechless is speechless. I feel like I should stop talking to you and pretend I never even knew you but I kind of like you so I’m awfully conflicted right now 😉.

    I love her. I don’t know what that says about me but there you go. That said, this wasn’t her best one and I can definitely see why it would put you (and many others) off. Please stay away from her books in future so I don’t need to resort to harsh measures 😜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, well, if it’s any consolation I did think about not posting it because I know you’re a big fan! No problem about me staying away from her in future – I feel I’ve done my Grumpy Granny duty and shall now return to the gentler days of the Golden Age. Please can we still be friends? 😉

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    • Ha, you wouldn’t say that if you knew how many books I’ve abandoned this year! But I really wanted to see if I could see why Slaughter is so popular – but no, I’m still baffled!

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