Monday, January 29, 2018

Review: UNSUB

Summary: A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss? -- Dutton

I've been hearing quite a bit of buzz about UNSUB by Meg Gardiner for the past month -- actually for the past six or so months, so I was excited to discover that I had an early e-book copy of this novel. The sequel to UNSUB, INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE, is being released tomorrow; and I didn't have much time to catch up if I wanted to stay on track for this new series. As a result, I read the majority of the book yesterday!

UNSUB is a darn good psychological thriller. It is inspired by the real-life (and never caught) Zodiac Killer, who committed a series of murders in the Bay Area in the 1990s, and takes place about twenty years later. Caitlin Hendrix is a young Narcotics detective when the UNSUB starts murdering again. Caitlin's father, Mack, was one of the original detectives on the case; and his inability to solve the crimes basically ruined his life... so needless to say, Caitlin is especially eager to be involved with this investigation.

The murderer is back at it again with his ritualized murders, and Caitlin is determined to piece together the methods behind his madness. As she becomes more involved with catching this man, can she keep perspective rather than letting the investigation take over her life... and her mental health?

I really, really liked UNSUB. In fact, I think it's one of the best psychological thrillers that I've read in some time. There is no doubt that Ms. Gardiner is a fantastic writer (she's even an Edgar Award winner), but she's really brought it to the next level with this novel. I love that she was inspired by the real-life Zodiac killer; and this novel was just really smart from the mental state of the serial killer, to the way he plotted his crimes, to how Caitlin figured things out. Plus, she created a complicated and intriguing character in Caitlin Hendrix.

I adored Caitlin and especially appreciated how complex she was. She was the daughter of a cop who lost his mind after trying to solve a case almost 20 years ago; and as a result, he didn't really have much of a relationship with him. It was interesting to see how much she wanted to be involved in this case -- both as a way to prove herself as a newbie cop and redeem her father's name. I thought the author did a terrific job in bring Caitlin and Mack's relationship to life.

In addition, I loved that Caitlin wasn't only tough as nails, but she also had a terrific mind. The serial killer's actions were obviously based on something and he did give his fair share of clues, but no one involved in the investigation could get a grip on what he was saying or planning on doing. It seemed as if the killer was just toying with the police. That is until Caitlin became involved. She methodically figured out the puzzle-like clues that they killer was leaving, and eventually she was able to get inside this madman's mind! Words cannot express how much I loved the way the author set up this story with the murders and the symbolism -- it was brilliant!!!

Readers can probably tell from UNSUB's description that the murders in this novel are particularly gruesome. The book is very well written, but I do want to warn you that it's not for the faint of heart. The killer is one of the most twisted and disturbing characters I've encountered in a book. And as far as mysteries go, this one is gritty and disturbing (and oh so good!), but I did feel squeamish reading a few of the scenes.

Even after Caitlin figured out who was responsible for the killings, the book was far from over. It was an extremely interesting pursuit (to say the least!), and the pacing of the end of the book was incredibly. I couldn't put it down. And to make things even more interesting, there is a twist or two at the end that pretty much assured readers that another UNSUB novel would be coming! Personally, I can't wait to read the next one, INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE!

I loved UNSUB and am super excited that Ms. Gardiner has started a series with this fabulous cast of characters! Highly recommended to fans of psychological suspense!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Dorothy N said...

I loved this book! Your review, as usual, is well-written and thorough. Like you, I am really looking forward to reading the next book in this series!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

Oohh this looks good!