The Last Widow – Karin Slaughter

SLAUGHTER remains one of the best writers of contemporary American fiction even though she's written nigh on 20 books in the same series.

She's kept things fresh by shuffling around her lead characters and shaking up the formulas of her plots, while retaining a strong sense of place and a deep understanding of human beings.

This latest paperback sees paediatrician Sara Linton – heroine of most of Slaughter's previous books – very happy in her relationship with Will Trent, the likeable cop Slaughter introduced in a separate series before bringing them both together.

This love story is at the heart of the novel even though the pair spend most of it apart: in the first few pages the couple stumble upon a car crash, get into a gunfight, and Sara is kidnapped.

Her captors are a gang of highly-trained gunmen who have set off several bombs at the nearby hospital, several weeks after snatching a leading epidemiologist from the street.

Sara finds herself a prisoner at the men's camp in the mountains, where they have families and a whole community set up like a religious cult and planning a major attack.

Meanwhile Will becomes part of a team trying to discover the truth about the organisation and why they needed an expert on pandemics.

The Last Widow is compulsive from the first page and moves at a thundering pace. Slaughter excels at both the big picture – domestic terrorism and cuts – and the intimate, making you really care what happens to Will and Sara.

David Knights