By Karin Slaughter
Publisher/Year: Harper Collins Australia 2022
A girl with a secret …
Longbill Beach, 1982. Emily Vaughn gets ready for prom night, the highlight of any high school experience. But Emily has a secret. And by the end of the evening, she will be dead.
A murder that remains a mystery …
Forty years later, Emily’s murder remains unsolved. Her friends closed ranks, her family retreated inwards, the community moved on. But all that’s about to change.
One final chance to uncover a killer …
Andrea Oliver arrives in town with a simple assignment: to protect a judge receiving death threats. But her assignment is a cover. Because, in reality, Andrea is here to find justice for Emily – and to uncover the truth before the killer decides to silence her too …
Reviewer: Narrelle Harris
Girl, Forgotten is Karin Slaughter’s second book featuring protagonist Andrea Oliver, but you don’t have to have read Pieces of Her to follow or get to grips with this tale of a 40 year old unsolved murder.
Slaughter quickly fills in the salient details that explain why Andrea Oliver, after her experiences in the first book with her secretive mother and psychopath father, has decided to become a US Marshall. Fresh from graduation, she’s sent to the town of Longbill’s Beach – ostensibly to help guard a judge who has received death threats, but with secret instructions to prove that her imprisoned father is the high schooler who committed the 1982 murder of pregnant schoolgirl, Emily Vaughn.
The book unfolds between the present, with Andrea trying to find her feet as a Marshall and complete both her jobs while dealing with her traumatic past, and Emily’s last months. In the present, Andrea is getting to know the frequently unpleasant people who formed Emily’s circle: her mother, the renowned judge that Andrea is meant to protect; Judith, the baby daughter Emily lived long enough to deliver, but not to see; and Emily’s teachers and school friends, who are among the pool of suspects. Other unsavoury activities at a nearby farm are also drawing the Marshalls’ attention, especially when it’s found to be run by two vile men who are also part of the 1982 investigation.
The parallels between Andrea and Emily are not clear to begin with, but as the story evolves, both are revealed as being stronger and more resourceful than they at first appear. But Emily’s story is a tragedy, and we know how it ends, if not the who.
Andrea learns the ropes from her partner, Catfish Bible, and also tries to learn from her mistakes. She’s not a cool action hero, but someone who has to make use of her training to overcome adrenalin rushes and to think clearly in a crisis.
The misogyny and maltreatment that both Andrea and Emily experience, decades apart, can make Girl, Forgotten a difficult read on occasion. However, Andrea’s growing mastery of her anxieties and place in the investigation, unveiled alongside Emily’s growth from a disgraced schoolgirl to a thoughtful and compassionate young woman, are a good counterbalance. In the end, Emily is not as forgotten as the title suggests.
The resolution of the contemporary crime and the old murder don’t take the obvious path, but the journey is filled with intriguing characters, past and present, and concludes with a real sorrow at Emily’s loss, and a sense of rightness at Andrea’s growth and achievements.