The Last Widow: A Novel (Will Trent)
The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter has one foot loosely planted in reality. The other is firmly mired in the black hole of the worst possible human behavior. There is no such thing as simple murder to be solved by her storybook heroes. The death that confronts them is true to the author’s surname, slaughter.
A white male supremacist group bearing the initials IPA inhabits the black hole congealed over Atlanta. It has nothing to do with the popular, hoppy version of craft beer. IPA stands for the Invisible Patriotic Army. And terror is the music to which it marches.
Its goal is to make America pure and pure white again. It is well funded and armed. It has a scientific secret weapon made possible by kidnap and rape. Bomb and assault rifle attacks are its stock in trade. A weapon of biological mass destruction is its ultimate playing card. IPA tests the WMD effectiveness on the women and children living in its cult compound. It works just fine, thank you very much.
Buoyed by Beta test results, the IPA coats its bullets with the deadly toxin. Clearly they believe that what doesn’t immediately kill their targets should not allow them to grow stronger. Ultimate deployment of the WMD is to be via the flight kitchens at Hartsfield International Airport, Atlanta. The lethal toxins in some manner are to be injected into the food trays to be served airline passengers departing Hartsfield.
This diabolical plan fails the logic and laugh tests. Even if it were to be assumed that airlines still actually do place full meals before their customers, death would randomly befall all races and creeds on board. White genetic purity would not be enhanced by this tactic. Even the message Make America White Again would be lost by indiscriminate carnage.
The author tasks her go to characters Sara Linton and Will Trent with stopping the IPA. She does so with capricious stroke of her pen. Sara, a medical examiner, and Will, an agent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, are not charged by their employers to defeat the IPA. Rather, Sara and Will come upon what looks like a traffic accident following a double bombing at Emory University. They start to help the apparent victims. As random bad luck or author’s pen would have it, they are no mere accident victims. They are really soldiers of the IPA. Sara and Will thus fall into the black hole.
Sara and Will are likeable in their own right. In one scene, Will cuts the grass at the home of Sara’s aunt. The Atlanta day is steaming hot. The description of Will’s work is so well crafted that the reader can neither avoid feeling the same sweat that streams down his back nor the insult of the same gnats that swarm his face. “He turned the corner, angling the mower through a dip in the rough terrain. His foot caught in a gopher hole. Gnats snarled in front of his face. The sun felt like the lash from a belt on the back of his neck. The only reason he hadn’t sweated his b***s off was because a thick paste of dirt, clipped grass and sweat had glued them to his body.”
Equally, the reader is sitting alongside Sara in the kitchen as she is enveloped by the guile of her mother and aunt. Together the siblings outline the proper, respectable life Sara should embrace. Both Sara and reader share her suppressed eye rolls, gasps of mirth and gulps of frustration as the coordinated life lecture rolls on.
“She caught the look that was exchanged between her aunt and mother. A hammer was about to drop. They had lured her with the promise of fried chicken . . . Bella said . . . ‘This old place is too much house for your sweet Aunt Bella to handle. What do you think of moving back in?’ Sara laughed, but then she saw that her aunt was serious. . . . Sara felt her mouth moving but she had no words . . . Sara experienced a momentary loss of hearing.”
Of course, yard work and gauzy days ahead are displaced by mayhem and slaughter. The FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, all of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men rise up to battle the IPA. Only Sara and Will have the pluck and power to dash the IPA to bits and end its game.