Each Quinn sister, in her own way, tries to be the good daughter but neither of these complicated, often prickly, women has come to terms with the horrific crime that changed their lives in Karin Slaughter’s excellent stand-alone novel, “The Good Daughter.”
Samantha was 15 and Charlotte was 13 when two men forced their way into their rural Pikeville, Georgia, home looking for their father, Rusty, a disliked defense attorney who townspeople believed “served at the right hand of Satan” because his clientele includes “alleged” murderers, rapists and drug dealers.
Rusty was still at the courthouse, so brothers Zach and Daniel Culpepper take their hatred out on his family — killing his wife, Gamma, shooting Samantha in the head and leaving her for dead, and terrorizing Charlotte, who managed to escape.
Rather than uniting the sisters, the trauma coupled with anger and secrets of that day has estranged them for 28 years. Neither sister knows anything about the other’s life. Rusty calls Samantha, now a patent attorney in Manhattan, every Sunday, but she never speaks to him, only listens. Charlotte has her own practice in Rusty’s building, but she’s determined to be a different lawyer than her father. For his part, Rusty cherishes his family more than they could ever know, but has always seemed more attuned to his clients’ needs.
During a chance visit to the local middle school, Charlotte is caught in a school shooting in which teenager Kelly Wilson kills the principal and an 8-year-old girl. The violence that invaded Charlotte’s young life has influenced her daily actions and the school shooting reinforces those memories. Despite being an eyewitness, Charlotte can’t reconcile the teen shooter she saw dressed in goth style with the shy, fragile and mentally slow Kelly she meets later. The shooting and Rusty’s frail health reunites Charlotte and Samantha.
Slaughter doesn’t make it easy to like any member of the Quinn family, but the author is sharply attuned with each of her characters who are unfailingly interesting and believable. Slaughter’s research into how a person recovers from a shooting is skillfully woven into the plot. For the Quinn sisters, discovering how the violence occurring in their teens shaped their personalities is paramount.
Slaughter’s assured writing, her solid plotting with outstanding twists and intense characterizations make “The Good Daughter” a standout in a career highlighted by several superb novels. Oline H. Cogdill, AP