3.5 star

Review: False Witness by Karin Slaughter


Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.


But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.


Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.


If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Callie, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…

Ahhh, so many mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’d say that overall the book was quite well-written. There were many themes that recurred and were used in different ways to continue the theme of suspense. On the other hand, the material is just so graphic and horrifying, I did have a hard time getting through it, emotionally.

I’ve actually read one of the author’s other books, which left me feeling the same way. I had read it a while back, and if I had realized this book was the same author, I think I would have just put it down. Not because it’s a bad book, but sometimes the content is just too much for me to handle. So a warning to all those who are sensitive to such topics.

False Witness revolves around two sisters who share a dark past. One has risen through the ranks while the other has sunken into the shadows. When one day, Leigh gets suddenly put onto an all-too-familiar case, things start to unravel. Just how much of the past stays hidden in the past, and how will these ghosts affect both Leigh and her sister’s futures?

The suspense was truly amazing in this book. Everything else outside, it was so exciting that I felt like I had to put it down sometimes just to calm down. Some parts got so scary I just had to take a break for the night as well. If that’s the kind of suspense/thriller that you look for, then look no further. There was an excellent use of recurring motifs to really build suspense throughout the book, and the final revelations and turning points were truly impressive.

I also didn’t mind the legal thriller aspect of this book. It wasn’t overly technical, and the legal aspects were all explained and important in some aspect to the story. This isn’t always well executed, so props to the author for doing a good job incorporating that aspect into this novel. It’s also a fairly “modern” book as it totally incorporates COVID-19 and its effects into the setting of the novel.

The characters were certainly interesting as well. Full of morally grey characters and good people facing tough choices, I think one of the themes that is fully explored in this novel is whether anyone is truly blameless, and whether a high standard of morality is universally applicable. Definitely some interesting thoughts passed through my head while reading, wondering if I was really truly supportive of the actions and motives of these various characters, and how much could be forgiven based on the circumstances.

My biggest warning would be the trigger warnings. It does get pretty graphic, and to say that the things described are abhorrent would be truly an understatement. I found this to be the case in Pretty Girls too. The shock of reading something like that was just a little bit too much for me. However, if you tend to watch many intense TV shows or read other novels of similar genres, perhaps it wouldn’t be so jarring.

Overall Recommendations

False Witness is a very suspenseful thriller filled with some graphic and dark themes not for the faint of heart. That being said, the author does an excellent job of weaving in themes and motifs that are brought back again and again to hammer in the suspense. The story also takes place in familiar modern 2020-2021 pandemic settings, something that I’m sure is relatable to all. The main character is a defence lawyer whose dark past is something she has long run away from, and when she is suddenly called to defend a suspicious case, everything comes back to haunt her. Just how much does her client know? And what is his motive?


3 thoughts on “Review: False Witness by Karin Slaughter”

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