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Authors: Karin Slaughter

Tags: #Medical, #General, #Suspense, #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Political, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths

Kisscut

BOOK: Kisscut
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Kisscut

Karin Slaughter

"Engrossing…

[with] meticulous characterizations." – People

"Like the atmosphere of casual malevolence in Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery' or the contagious suspicion that fuels Rod Serling's 'The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,' creepiness spreads like kudzu in Slaughter's small-town setting." – Washington Post Book World

"Karin Slaughter deserves all the praise she gets for her razor-sharp plotting and forensic detail. But for me the hook is in her characters and relationships.

They are right on the mark." – Michael Connelly

"The undertone of violence is pervasive, even at quiet moments, amplifying Slaughter's equation of intimacy with menace and placing her squarely in the ranks of Cornwell and Reichs." – Publishers Weekly

"A fast-paced thriller for those not faint of heart." – Library Journal

"It's not easy to transcend a model like Patricia Cornwell, but Slaughter does so in a thriller whose breakneck plotting and not-for-the-squeamish forensics provide grim manifestations of a deeper evil her mystery trumpets without ever quite containing." – Kirkus Reviews

"With Blindsighted, Karin Slaughter left a great many thriller writers looking anxiously over their shoulders.

With Kisscut, she leaves most of them behind…

It succeeds brilliantly." – John Connolly

"A tension-filled narrative with plenty of plot twists… This is just the ticket for readers who like their crime fiction on the dark side." – Booklist

"Impossible to put down… Slaughter hits all the buttons, providing an original and well-plotted story that doesn't let up until the final sentence." – Orlando Sentinel

"Karin Slaughter is an impressive new landmark on the thriller map." – Val McDermid

"Slaughter delivers a noir thriller complete with a brooding atmosphere that veers into Southern gothic tradition… [She] gives us an understanding about victims that only a well-constructed hard-boiled novel can. This is a novel that has staying power, because she makes us care so much about the characters." – Florida Sun-Sentinel

"Though her forensics and investigative writing place her in a league with Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs, Slaughter's tweaking of the human condition is key to making her a uniquely original voice in the world of mystery and suspense." – Mississippi Clarion Ledger

"Karin Slaughter is a fearless writer. She takes us to the deep, dark places other novelists don't dare to go. Kisscut will cement her reputation as one of the boldest thriller writers working today." – Tess Gerritsen

***

Amazon.com Review

When police chief Jeffrey Tolliver responds to a disturbance at a local skating rink, the last thing he expects is to have to shoot a 13-year-old girl who's holding a gun on a fellow student. Then Jenny Deaver's autopsy reveals two stunning facts: she did not bear the murdered newborn discovered in the rink's restroom, and she had recently been genitally mutilated. With his ex-wife, pediatrician Sara Linton, Jeffrey uncovers a child sex and pornography ring involving Jenny, her classmates, and their mothers-a horrific enterprise that culminated in the killing that Tolliver will never be able to forget. This taut, chilling thriller showcases Karin Slaughter's skill at plotting, pace, and narrative, and will linger in the reader's mind long after the stunning denouement. This is a terrific sequel to her debut, Blindsighted, with two protagonists whose complex relationship will no doubt be a featured subplot in her next offering.

From Publishers Weekly

Aptly named novelist Slaughter (Blindsighted) brings back her horribly scarred cast of Grant County, Ga., cops and coroners for more murder, mayhem and horrific sexual violence. Pathologist Sara Linton, who has been dating her ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, is witness to Tolliver's fatal shooting of a teenage girl when the girl threatens to shoot a 16-year-old boy in a standoff outside the local skating rink. A search of the rink turns up a dismembered fetus in a toilet; Sara's postmortem reveals the girl had a long history of abuse most gruesomely, her vagina is sewn shut. Working the case alongside Jeffrey is Det. Lena Adams, herself the victim of a recent abduction and rape, who is also trying, with difficulty, to come to terms with the death of her gay sister. Questioning Mark, the boy who was almost shot, Lena gradually uncovers a true horror show of pedophilia, incest and kiddie porn, an inverted world where parents rape their children before peddling them to strangers for money and blackmail. Slaughter adheres to the traditional mystery format, but turns up the shock factor tenfold, demonstrating that the deepest depravity can be business as usual in small towns as well as big cities. The undertone of violence is pervasive, even at quiet moments (" Lena was able to pull her hand away, but not before she felt Grace's thumb brush across the scar… The touch was tender, almost sexual, and Lena could see the charge Grace got out of it"), amplifying Slaughter's equation of intimacy with menace and placing her squarely in the ranks of Cornwell and Reichs. (Sept.) Forecast: Slaughter's much-praised first novel, Blindsighted, put her on the thriller map. Kisscut, a featured alternate selection of the Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Mystery Guild and BOMC, could make her a bestseller. 10-city author tour.

Karin Slaughter
 
Kisscut

Grant County – #2

For Doris Smart,

who loved Auburn football

and reading-in that order

Saturday

Chapter One

"Dancing Queen," Sara Linton mumbled with the music as she made her way around the skating rink. "Young and sweet, only seventeen."

She heard a furious clicking of wheels to her left and turned just in time to catch a small child before he crashed into her.

"Justin?" she asked, recognizing the seven year old. She held him up by the back of his shirt as his ankles wobbled over his in-line skates.

"Hey, Dr. Linton," Justin managed around gasps for breath. His helmet was too big for his head, and he pushed it back several times as he tried to look up at her.

Sara returned his smile, trying not to laugh. "Hello, Justin."

"I guess you like this music, huh? My mom likes it, too." He stared at her openly, his lips slightly parted. Like most of Sara's patients, Justin seemed a bit shocked to see her outside of the clinic. Sometimes she wondered if they thought she lived in the basement there, waiting for them to get colds or fevers so she could see them.

"Anyway," Justin pushed back his helmet again, knocking himself in the nose with his elbow pad. "I saw you singing it."

"Here," Sara offered, leaning down to adjust the chin strap. The music in the rink was so loud that Sara could feel the bass vibrating through the plastic buckle as she tightened it under his chin.

"Thanks," Justin yelled, then for some reason he put both his hands on top of the helmet, as if to rest them. The motion threw him off balance, and he stumbled, clamping on to Sara's leg.

Sara grabbed his shirt again and led them both over to the safety railing lining the rink. After trying on a pair of inline skates herself, Sara had asked for the old four-wheel kind, not wanting to fall on her ass in front of half the town.

"Wow." Justin giggled, throwing his arms over the railing for support. He was looking down at her skates. "Your feet are so huge!"

Sara looked down at her skates, feeling a flush of embarrassment. She had been teased about her large feet since she was seven years old. After nearly thirty years of hearing it, Sara still felt the urge to hide under the bed with a bowl of chocolate-fudge ice cream.

"You're wearing boy's skates!" Justin screeched, letting go of the rail so that he could point at her black skates. Sara caught him just before he hit the ground.

"Sweety," Sara whispered politely into his ear. "Remember this when you're due for your booster shots."

Justin managed a smile for his pediatrician. "I think my mom wants me," he mumbled, edging along the rail, hand over hand, casting a wary eye over his shoulder to make sure Sara was not following him.

She crossed her arms, leaning against the railing as she watched him go. Sara loved kids, a characteristic most pediatricians shared, but there was something to be said for not spending her Saturday night surrounded by them.

"That your date?" Tessa asked, coming to a stop beside her.

Sara gave her sister a hard look. "Remind me how I got roped into this."

Tessa tried to smile. "Because you love me?"

"Right," Sara returned caustically. Across the rink, Sara picked out Devon Lockwood, Tessa's latest boyfriend, who also worked in the Linton family's plumbing business. Devon was leading his nephew around the kiddy rink while his brother watched.

"His mother hates me," Tessa mumbled. "She gives me nasty looks every time I get near him."

"Daddy's the same way about us," Sara reminded her.

Devon noticed them staring and waved.

"He's good with children," Sara noted, returning his wave.

"He's good with his hands," Tessa said in a low voice, almost to herself. She turned back to Sara. "Speaking of which, where's Jeffrey?"

Sara looked back at the front entrance, wondering that herself. Wondering, too, why she cared whether or not her ex-husband showed up. "I don't know," she answered. "When did this place get so packed?"

"It's Saturday night and football season hasn't started; what else are people going to do?" Tessa asked, but did not let Sara change the subject. "Where's Jeffrey?"

"Maybe he won't come."

Tessa smiled in a way that let Sara know she was holding back a snide comment.

"Go ahead and say it."

"I wasn't going to say anything," Tessa said, and Sara could not tell if she was lying or not.

"We're just dating." Sara paused, wondering whom she was trying to convince, Tessa or herself. She added, "It's not even serious."

"I know."

"We've barely even kissed."

Tessa held up her palms in resignation. "I know," she repeated, a smirk on her lips.

"Just a few dates. That's all."

"You don't have to convince me."

Sara groaned as she leaned back against the railing. She felt stupid, like a teenager instead of a grown woman. She had divorced Jeffrey two years ago after catching him with the woman who owned the sign shop in town. Why she had started seeing him again was as much a mystery to Sara as it was to her family.

A ballad came on, and the lights dimmed. Sara watched the mirrored ball drop down from the ceiling, scattering little squares of light all over the rink.

"I need to go to the bathroom," Sara told her sister. "Will you keep an eye out for Jeff?"

Tessa glanced over Sara's shoulder. "Somebody just went in."

"There are two stalls now." Sara turned toward the women's rest room just in time to see a large teenage girl go in. Sara recognized the girl as Jenny Weaver, one of her patients. She waved, but the girl didn't see her.

Tessa muttered, "Hope you can wait."

Sara frowned, watching another teenager she did not recognize follow Jenny into the rest room. At this rate, Sara would go into renal failure before Jeffrey arrived.

Tessa tilted her head toward the front door. "Speaking of tall, dark, and handsome."

Sara felt a foolish smile come to her lips as she watched Jeffrey make his way toward the rink. He was still dressed for work in a charcoal-gray suit with a burgundy tie. As chief of police for Grant County, he knew most of the people in the room. He glanced around, looking for Sara, she supposed, stopping here and there to shake hands. She refused to do anything that would get his attention as he walked through the crowd. At this point in their relationship, Sara was content to let Jeffrey do all of the work.

Sara had met Jeffrey on one of her earlier cases as town coroner. She had taken the helm of the medical examiner's office as a way to earn extra money to buy out her retiring partner at the Heartsdale Children's Clinic. Even though she had paid off Dr. Barney years ago, Sara still kept the job. She liked the challenge of pathology. Twelve years ago, Sara had done her residency in the emergency room of Atlanta 's Grady Hospital. Going from such a fast-paced, life-and-death job to tummy aches and sinus infections at the clinic had been a shock to her system. The coroner's job was a challenge that helped keep her mind sharp.

Jeffrey finally caught sight of her. He stopped in the middle of shaking Betty Reynolds's hand, the corners of his mouth rising slowly, then dipping into a frown as he was pulled back into conversation with the owner of the town's five-and-dime.

Sara could guess what Betty was talking about. The store had been broken into twice in the last three months. Betty's posture was adversarial, and even though Jeffrey's attention was obviously elsewhere, she continued to speak to him.

Finally, Jeffrey nodded, giving Betty a pat on the back as he shook her hand, probably making an appointment to talk with her tomorrow. He extricated himself, then walked toward Sara, a sly smile on his face.

"Hey," Jeffrey said. Before she could stop herself, Sara was shaking his hand the way almost everyone else in the rink had.

"Hello, Jeffrey," Tessa interrupted, her tone uncharacteristically sharp. It was usually Eddie, their father, who was rude to Jeffrey.

Jeffrey gave a puzzled smile. "Hey, Tessie."

"Uh-huh," Tessa mumbled, pushing off from the rail. She skated away, tossing Sara a knowing look over her shoulder.

Jeffrey asked, "What was that about?"

Sara pulled back her hand, but Jeffrey held on to her fingers just long enough to let her know it was his choice to release her. He was so damn sure of himself. More than anything else, this quality appealed to Sara at a very base level.

She crossed her arms, saying, "You're late."

"I had trouble getting away."

"Is her husband out of town?"

He gave her the same look he gave witnesses he knew were lying. "I was talking to Frank," he said, naming the lead detective on the Grant County squad. "I told him that he's in charge tonight. I don't want anything to interrupt us."

"Interrupt what?"

The same smile tugged at the corner of his lips. "Oh, I thought I'd seduce you tonight."

She laughed, backing up as he leaned in to kiss her.

"Kissing usually works better when the lips touch," he suggested.

"Not in front of half my practice," she countered.

"Come here, then."

Despite her better judgment, Sara ducked under the railing and took his hand. He rolled her into the back of the rink by the bathroom, tucking them into a corner and out of sight.

"This better?" he asked.

"Yeah," Sara answered, looking down at Jeffrey, because with the skates on she was a couple inches taller. "Much better. I really need to use the bathroom."

She started to move, but he stopped her, putting his hands on her waist.

"Jeff," she said, aware her tone was far from threatening.

"You are so beautiful, Sara."

She rolled her eyes like a teenager.

He laughed, trying, "I thought about kissing you all last night."

"Yeah?"

"I miss the way you taste."

She tried to sound bored. "It's still Colgate."

"That's not the taste I was talking about."

Her mouth opened in surprise, and he smiled, obviously pleased with her reaction. Sara felt something stir deep inside her and was about to say something-she had no idea what-when his pager went off.

He kept staring at her as if he didn't hear the beeping.

Sara cleared her throat, asking, "Shouldn't you answer that?"

He finally looked down at the pager clipped to his belt, muttering, "Shit," at what he saw.

"What?"

"Break-in," he answered curtly.

"I thought Frank was on call."

"He is for the little things. I've got to use the pay phone."

"Where's your cell phone?"

"Dead battery." Jeffrey seemed to get his irritation under control enough to offer her a reassuring smile. "Nothing is going to ruin tonight, Sara." He put his hand to her cheek. "Nothing is more important to me than tonight."

"Got a hot date after our dinner?" she teased. "Because we can cancel if you need to."

He narrowed his eyes at her before turning away.

Sara watched him go, letting a "Jesus Christ" hiss out between her lips as she leaned back against the wall. She could not believe that in less than three minutes he had managed to turn her into a blithering idiot.

She jumped as the bathroom door banged shut. Jenny Weaver stood there, looking out at the rink as if she was contemplating something. The teenager's skin looked pasty next to the black long sleeved T-shirt she was wearing. She held a dark red backpack in her hand, which she swung over her shoulder as Sara rolled toward her. The bag brushed against Sara's chest in a wide arc.

"Whoa," Sara said, backing up.

Jenny blinked, recognizing her pediatrician. She mumbled a soft, "Sorry," averting her eyes.

"It's okay," Sara returned, thinking to start a conversation; the girl seemed troubled. "How about you?" Sara asked. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, ma'am," Jenny said, clutching the bag to her chest.

Before Sara could say anything else, Jenny walked away.

Sara watched the teenager retreat into a crowd of kids near the video game room. The light from the screens gave Jenny's body a green cast as she disappeared into the corner. Sara sensed something was wrong, but it wasn't like she could chase the girl down and demand to know what was going on. At that age, everything was a drama. Knowing teenage girls, there was probably a boy involved.

The lights came up as the ballad ended, and another old rock song blared over the speakers, the bass resonating in Sara's chest. She watched the skaters in the rink pick up the tempo, wondering if she had ever been that agile. While Skatie's had changed ownership several times since Sara was a teenager, it was still the hot spot for Grant County 's teens. Sara had spent many a weekend night in the back of this very building, necking with Steve Mann, her first serious boyfriend. Their relationship had not been so much passionate as an alliance, both of them united in one cause: to get out of Grant. Steve's father had been struck down by a heart attack their senior year and Steve had been running the family hardware store ever since. Now he was married with kids. Sara had escaped to Atlanta, but returned a few years later.

And here she was tonight, back at Skatie's, necking with Jeffrey Tolliver. Or at least trying to.

Sara shrugged it off as she turned toward the bathroom. She put her hand on the doorknob, then jerked it back as she felt something sticky. The light was still low in this part of the rink, and Sara had to hold her hand close to her face in order to see what was on it. She caught the scent before she recognized the texture. She looked down at her shirt where Jenny Weaver's backpack had brushed against her.

A narrow streak of blood arced across her chest.

BOOK: Kisscut
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