When Aleesha Monroe is murdered in the impoverished Grady Homes neighbourhood, it seems just like any other killing of a drug addicted prostitute, apart from one thing, her tongue has been bitten off.
Detective Michael Ormewood, under pressure to solve the case, is annoyed when Will Trent, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, is called in to help, however he soon has far more to worry about when his fifteen year-old neighbour is found dead in a similar manner. Is someone goading Michael or is there something far more sinister going on?
Will Trent has been tracking down a serial killer who operates with the same modus operandi but as usual the local police don’t appreciate his interference and his odd ways. A survivor of an abusive childhood, Will is a rather quirky character who wears three-piece suits to hide the multiple scars on his body and has developed a series of ways to hide his severe dyslexia. Despite his issues, Will is a great investigator and his instincts go into overdrive when the evidence doesn’t seem to stack up.
While Michael and Will are investigating the murders, John Shelley is trying to stay on the straight and narrow after being released from jail, however it soon becomes clear that someone has been using his identity. In 1985, John was convicted of murdering fifteen-year-old Mary Alice Finney, something he has always denied doing, but the evidence points to his guilt and he is sentenced to twenty-two years. As John recounts what he remembers of the days before his imprisonment, he is ever more convinced it was his cousin who was the real culprit and he wants revenge.
Triptych was released just after the final Grant County series when most of Slaughter’s readers were mourning the loss of a much loved character for which the author had to post an explanatory letter on her website. It’s not easy replacing a beloved character and when I read Triptych the first time, I had no idea it was the start of a new series featuring Will Trent. Slaughter pulls a fast one though as Michael Ormewood appears to be the main protagonist throughout the first few chapters until he fades into the background so John Shelley and Will Trent can come to the forefront.
A triptych is described as a painting divided into three sections, or three carved panels hinged together which can be closed to reveal another image or kept open. The theme is represented in our three main protagonists: Michael, John and Will, all of whom are deeply flawed characters with something to hide. Each of these men is given their own section in the book and each part reveals something that comes together to reveal the whole picture behind the crimes being perpetrated. The only other character given her own point of view is Angie Polaski, an undercover police officer, who is connected to all three men. Angie and Will have known each other since childhood and shared the same abusive past; Angie and Michael work at the same precinct and were lovers; and, Angie gets to know John while working undercover as a prostitute.
Throughout much of the book, Slaughter plays with our perceptions as she deliberately withholds vital information about characters during certain scenes so the revelations, when they come, hit hard. In another twist, the identity of the culprit is revealed to the reader almost half way through but we have to watch as the police slowly come to the same conclusion. As is typical with Slaughter’s novels, the murder scenes are graphic and there is a lot of violence but I like the fact she doesn’t pull her punches. There are also some wonderfully drawn characters, some of whom aren’t around for long, but they are all so wonderfully complex in their own way.
Triptych acts as a good introduction to Will Trent, however since I’ve read all of the series to date, I don’t think it is the best one and, for me at least, the series starts properly with Fractured. I love Will Trent though and Slaughter more than redeems herself for killing of that other character.