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First the kiss . . . then the blood. Sara Linton, pediatrician and medical examiner in Heartsdale, Georgia, knows only too well the horrors that can hide behind closed doors in a small community. But when a Saturday night argument between teenagers at the local skating rink leads to death—and a subsequent autopsy reveals evidence of ritualistic self-mutilation and long-term abuse—she realizes that true evil is closer than she imagined. Aided by her ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, and Detective Lena Adams, still traumatized by her brush with a maniac, Sara's investigation is frustrated at every turn by the cold silence of the family and friends of the slain girl. But the truth cannot be hidden forever, as Sara inexorably peels back the many layers of an inhuman outrage that goes far beyond mere murder. For an ominous cloud has settled over the young daughters and sons of Heartsdale—and those who would protect them must act quickly before all innocence here is devoured. Amazon.com Review When police chief Jeffrey Tolliver responds to a disturbance at a local skating rink, the last thing he expects is to have to shoot a 13-year-old girl who's holding a gun on a fellow student. Then Jenny Deaver's autopsy reveals two stunning facts: she did not bear the murdered newborn discovered in the rink's restroom, and she had recently been genitally mutilated. With his ex-wife, pediatrician Sara Linton, Jeffrey uncovers a child sex and pornography ring involving Jenny, her classmates, and their mothers--a horrific enterprise that culminated in the killing that Tolliver will never be able to forget. This taut, chilling thriller showcases Karin Slaughter's skill at plotting, pace, and narrative, and will linger in the reader's mind long after the stunning denouement. This is a terrific sequel to her debut, Blindsighted, with two protagonists whose complex relationship will no doubt be a featured subplot in her next offering. --Jane Adams From Publishers Weekly Aptly named novelist Slaughter (Blindsighted) brings back her horribly scarred cast of Grant County, Ga., cops and coroners for more murder, mayhem and horrific sexual violence. Pathologist Sara Linton, who has been dating her ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, is witness to Tolliver's fatal shooting of a teenage girl when the girl threatens to shoot a 16-year-old boy in a standoff outside the local skating rink. A search of the rink turns up a dismembered fetus in a toilet; Sara's postmortem reveals the girl had a long history of abuse most gruesomely, her vagina is sewn shut. Working the case alongside Jeffrey is Det. Lena Adams, herself the victim of a recent abduction and rape, who is also trying, with difficulty, to come to terms with the death of her gay sister. Questioning Mark, the boy who was almost shot, Lena gradually uncovers a true horror show of pedophilia, incest and kiddie porn, an inverted world where parents rape their children before peddling them to strangers for money and blackmail. Slaughter adheres to the traditional mystery format, but turns up the shock factor tenfold, demonstrating that the deepest depravity can be business as usual in small towns as well as big cities. The undertone of violence is pervasive, even at quiet moments ("Lena was able to pull her hand away, but not before she felt Grace's thumb brush across the scar.... The touch was tender, almost sexual, and Lena could see the charge Grace got out of it"), amplifying Slaughter's equation of intimacy with menace and placing her squarely in the ranks of Cornwell and Reichs. (Sept.) Forecast: Slaughter's much-praised first novel, Blindsighted, put her on the thriller map. Kisscut, a featured alternate selection of the Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Mystery Guild and BOMC, could make her a bestseller. 10-city author tour. Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.