A cold-eyed coroner who is also a warm-hearted pediatrician in Grant County, Ga., Sara Linton flirts and spars with her sexy ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver. Sara gets drawn into working with self-destructive detective Lena Adams, who has more firsthand experience with violence than she cares to admit. Lena's complex feelings drive this elaborately grotesque suspense tale.
A night at the local roller rink turns to tragedy when Jeffrey is forced to shoot a teenage girl and Sara finds a dead baby in a trash can. How these incidents are connected is the crux of a sickening criminal conspiracy. Unfortunately, Slaughter rolls out so many perverse miseries—rape, mutilation, incest—at such a rapid clip that she allows the story's procedural credibility to fall by the wayside. Vital witnesses aren't interviewed until it's too late, and the police shooting merely leads to a cursory investigation. Eventually all of the ugliness crowds out Slaughter's meticulous characterizations: The resolution is so twisted and monstrous it may make you want to take a long vacation from the scalpels-and-suspects genre. (Morrow, $24.95)