Karin Slaughter: Girl, Forgotten

Despite the title of Karin Slaughter’s latest work, Girl, Forgotten, it’s pretty clear that Emily Vaughn’s idyllic little hometown has never truly forgotten her. Told half in the present, where the case has been reopened by newly minted US Marshal Andrea Oliver, and half in the past, where Emily lives out the days before her own murder, her voice isn’t silenced for long. That can make the horrific things she endured – rape by someone who knew she was drugged, ostracization by former friends, loss of her future, and unexpected pregnancy – difficult to bear. It is clear throughout that Emily was a sweet, good person who intended to make the most of her situation moving forward. Unfortunately, she never gets the chance to do so.

Almost everyone in Emily’s life is abusive in one way or the other, and this town seems utterly bathed in past and present sins. Her father is physically and verbally abusive, her mother is cold and distant, and she is harmed by both a former friend and a teacher in the first chapter. Worse still, it becomes clear quickly that the friends she loved, who had been her friends all her life, are nothing but a pit of vipers waiting to strike. It’s less of a surprise that a tragedy happened, and more of a surprise that nothing so serious had happened to Emily before.

Andrea Oliver comes into this case after Emily has been dead forty years, and no one was ever arrested for her murder. Though based on her bird dog personality the case would be interesting to her no matter what, Andrea has a vested personal interest too. One of Emily’s toxic friends, and longtime crush, was Andrea’s father, Clayton Morrow. He may even be the father of Emily’s baby, and that baby could be Andrea’s sister. After leaving his hometown behind, Clay went on to form a cult, where he would soon meet her mother, Laura. Laura put him behind bars long ago, but he may get out soon. If it turns out Clay murdered Emily all those years ago, Andrea can provide the evidence to keep him behind bars forever.

Girl, Forgotten builds on Pieces of Her with overlapping characters and a continuing plot line while still being its own story. Ultimately, that story is Emily’s, though it chronicles the struggles of Andrea’s new job too. Emily’s is not the only mystery in the book – in the present, further crime spread outward from the original sin of Emily’s death – but it is the most compelling. It’s rare to get to know the victim as well as Girl, Forgotten allows us to. It makes her death all the more devastating.  — Margaret Agnew


Margaret Agnew is the Director of the Cahokia Public Library in Cahokia, Illinois.  A graduate of Ripon College and Indiana University, she has been a mystery fan and an avid reader from an early age.  She also reviews for Mystery Scene magazine.