Book Title: UNSUB
Author: Meg Gardiner
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: UNSUB #1
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction
Pub Date: 06/27/17
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?
Most of the time, when a popular book has been hyped to kingdom come, it ends up being
at least slightly disappointing to the readers who weren’t able to go into the story prior to it being splashed everywhere. Whether it’s because the story just wasn’t great or it became so built up in your mind that nothing could possibly live up to that kind of standard, it makes readers who consume high quantities of fiction nervous and standoffish. But sometimes, every so often, the fandom has it completely right and, not only does the book live up to your expectations, it exceeds them. It’s been a long time since this has happened for me, but UNSUB definitely fits the bill. I stayed away from this one for roughly a year because I was so worried about the hype train and now I’m kicking myself in the face for avoiding such a well-written, exciting, and memorable serial killer thriller. I adore the cover and found it ties nicely into the storyline for those, like me, who care about that sort of thing. Meg Gardiner has that style of writing that makes you feel comfortable; there’s nothing proper about it and picking up her books is the equivalent of meeting up at a dive bar, buying a round of beer, and catching up on life.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
The beauty of serial killer fan fiction is it holds a firm model of how the story should flow but also allows for fine tuning and personalization of the narrative to give it that unique touch. Here we have inspiration from the never captured nor identified Zodiac Killer, and I love how our killer wasn’t meant to BE him, but almost inspired BY him in the plot. The story mentions Zodiac and makes comparisons between his and The Prophet’s motives, signatures, etc. to give the book a more grounded aspect. This wasn’t just another spinoff of Criminal Minds, but an inspired read that gives you that hazy feeling of being caught between truth and fiction. If you anticipate your crime fiction to have over the top action but still feel realistic, you should definitely pick this one up.
She opened her eyes and turned to see it. To prove to herself that it was real. That same symbol, pounded another victim’s flesh. His symbol. His madness. The Prophet.
Obviously this book is extremely graphic and disturbing, so it won’t be for everyone, but thanks to my Aunt Janet I developed a love of these types of books early on in adulthood and can’t seem to get enough of them. I’ve always been fascinated with psychopaths and wanted to know so many things about them. What makes them tick? Why are they so demented? What determines if a person develops the feelings that make us human or if those characteristics never form? This type of thought pattern has also ensured that the books I read aren’t just blood, guts, and shock value; I need characters who are flawed, wounded, and resilient. I need a protagonist who is barely hanging on by a thread, yet throws everything they have into bringing this kind of evil to an end. <— This is precisely what I found in this book and I cannot express how wonderful it was! When a thriller is on point with it’s plot AND characterization, count me in.
This was going to break in the next few minutes. Mack deserved to hear it from her. She breathed. “We know who he is,” she said. Mack stilled like a spike driven into the ground… She waited for him to react. His gaze lengthened beyond the horizon. Then his face crumpled. And his knees.
I don’t want to give away too much, but this book had some nice twists and turns. Not the kind that work up to one, major shocker that the book depends on for entertainment, but lots of smaller ones that I didn’t see coming. The ending was a jaw dropper and I for one am glad I have the next book in the series, Into The Black Nowhere on hand so that I can figure out just what the fudge will happen! *Insert Macauley Culkin Home Alone face here.* If you enjoy dark crime fiction thrillers and can stomach the grotesque beauty of this one, you NEED to pick up Unsub. Then go ahead and pre-order Into The Black Nowhere, because you’ll NEED that one too. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll be in the same room as Queen Meg Gardiner and I can buy her that beer after all. ❤
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.