William Morrow Pub
July 20th, 2021
False Witness by Karin Slaughter shows why she is one of the best for writing fabulous characters. This story has two sisters’ childhoods tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and ultimately destroyed by a brutal act of violence as well as one of the sister’s tragedy of addiction. She was portrayed with empathy and grace by the author. This story is brutal, honest, real, and heartbreaking at times involving issues of rape, drug use, murder, and abusive violence.
“I started with a character, Leigh Collier, who I thought about three years ago. I knew I was going to write a story during the pandemic. When the book was finished the vaccines came, so I knew I wanted to incorporate the virus into the story. It was fun and challenging for me as an author. I tried to make Covid exist, but not as an intricate part of the story. I made sure not to politicize it. Some have the luxury to keep themselves as safe as possible and some do not. To highlight this, I used the two sisters, Callie and Leigh. Callie always had to work. Because of her addiction she had to be on the streets. Having a disability made her vulnerable.”
Kudos to Slaughter for balancing the strong relationship between the sisters. Readers will grow attached to the sisters Leigh, Callie and Leigh’s husband, Walter, as he becomes involved to help them. Each of the sisters have taken a different route through life. Leigh Collier has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life after being sexually harassed as a child babysitter. She’s an up-and-coming defense attorney at a prestigious law firm in Atlanta, who would do anything for her sixteen-year-old daughter Maddy, while managing to successfully coparent through a pandemic after an amicable separation from her husband Walter. The other sister, Callie, is a drug addict, but sympathetically humanized. She was a child gymnast and cheerleader, who after suffering a broken neck, had constant back pain. Her childhood experience involved being groomed and regularly sexually assaulted by a violent pedophile while babysitting his 10-year-old son and turning her into a heroin addict.
“I wanted to humanize someone struggling with addiction. She had an emotional, mental, and physical addiction. Hopefully, I showed how we are really failing in how to handle addicts and help them. Callie figured out a way to help herself through maintenance doses. If only addicts could get levels that could help them function in society and eventually wean themselves off of the drugs. Instead of punishing the people into the ground we should look at ways people could get help. The personality of the person must be considered. If someone is actually a good person who is controlled by addiction, they are still decent. If someone is a horrible jerk, addiction will definitely amplify it. We spend trillions of dollars on the war on drugs, which has failed miserably. Imagine if we spent that money on helping low-income students get better Internet, classrooms, schoolbooks, nutritional meals, and safe schools. This would be more useful.”
As Leigh is asked by her boss to defend a serial rapist, she is confronted with her past. When she meets the accused face-to-face, Andrew, she realizes that it’s no coincidence that he’s specifically asked for her to represent him. They know each other. Leigh wonders how much he knows about what happened over twenty years ago. The only person who can help her is Callie, the younger, estranged sister. With the life-shattering truth in danger of being revealed, she has no choice to involve Callie. The shocking twist at the end of the book will keep readers engrossed.
This complex plot has as its central theme, the heart of the relationship between Callie and Leigh. Both these heroines are believable, flawed, and courageous. The highly intense themes, along with the horrible graphic actions of the evil doers, makes for a riveting read.