Julia disappeared on March 4, 1991. Over twenty years later, her case still hasn't been solved.
Lydia and Claire grew up with the shadow of their sister hovering overhead. Their father spent six years trying to find out what happened and eventually killed himself. Lydia partied hard and only managed to clean up her act after learning she was pregnant, but by then she had no contact with her mother or sister. Claire married well and spent almost twenty years trying to put her past behind her. When her husband is killed in a mugging, though, all of that changes.
It turns out Claire's husband had been keeping things from her: what seems to be a shocking obsession with violent porn, alleged embezzlement, and more. Who was this man and how could he have kept so many secrets for so long? And why does the girl in one of his videos look like an area teen who's recently gone missing? His betrayal is the one thing that finally brings Claire and Lydia together as they search for answers.
If you missed it, back in August I reviewed a little e short by Slaughter called "Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes." This prequel to Pretty Girls set the tone fabulously and left me pretty anxious to continue the story. Even from the start you know somehow that Julia is going to tie into what's going on even if it's just for the sisters to finally deal with the event emotionally. Chapters alternate between present day and their father's journals, written as if he were writing directly to Julia.
The book is quite graphic and dark, Claire's discoveries about her husband become increasingly more disturbing even though she's not sure what hand he had in the videos or even if they're real. The amount of effort he went to in keeping it from her, though, makes it clear to the reader that he can't have been an innocent bystander with a fetish.
You absolutely do not have to read "Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes" but I will say that reading that short gave me a great introduction to the story and the characters involved. Both Claire and Lydia are background characters in the short but they're still teens living at home, which means I got the chance to meet them through Julia's eyes as still innocent children not yet affected by their sister's disappearance. It provided a nice contrast - and context - to their characters in Pretty Girls.
Pretty Girls was a fantastic read, one that lived up to every expectation I had based on the short. It's twisted and excellently plotted and paced. A page-turner you definitely shouldn't start at bedtime considering you're likely to find yourself still wide awake hours later repeating, "Just one more chapter." Never a bad thing unless you, like me, need your eight hours to function the next day!
Slaughter's series work has always been highly acclaimed, but Pretty Girls is a standalone. Which means it's a perfect introduction to Slaughter if you've read her before.
To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.
For more on Karin Slaughter and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook.