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Kisscut    by Karin Slaughter order for
by Karin Slaughter
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HarperTorch, 2003 (2002)
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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I found Kisscut a little different from the author's debut novel, Blindsighted, and from the third in the series, A Faint Cold Fear - both of which I read first. Although it has a strong dose of blood and gore like the others, Kisscut's chills relate to the horrific abuse of children rather than to serial slashers.

It begins with a date between pediatrician Sara Linton and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver at the town skating rink - a good, cooling choice since the relationship between these ex-marrieds is beginning to seriously sizzle again. Unfortunately, they don't get to smooch for long this time, as they're interrupted by a girl with a gun.

Young Jenny is polite, but desperately intent on shooting Mark Patterson. After Tolliver does what he has to do to stop her, he must cope with feelings of guilt, as does Sara for her failure to notice signs of abuse during Jenny's medical checkups. Their investigation uncovers layers of horrors, with which many town children have lived for years - both physical and sexual abuse - and ties in to a long-term investigation of a pedophile ring.

In the meantime, Lena refuses to seek help for what she suffered from her sister's killer in Blindsighted. She barely copes with daily life and the stares of everyone around her, saved only by the need to keep going on the job. Though Jeff worries about Lena, Sara finds her manipulative and they come into conflict. And Lena is oddly drawn to Mark Patterson.

Though Tolliver gets some of the villains, the novel ends with a message that too many of these perpetrators are still out there (often in Internet communities) and that too many kids are being damaged by them every day. It's hard not to share the guilt and helplessness that Jeffrey and Sara feel in this episode.

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