Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: UNSUB, #1
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)
She looked at the darkening sky, the lights sparkling on the distant Berkeley Hills. There were seven million lives around her. And a ghost was loose among them, hunting.
It’s a rare occurrence that I fall in love with a thriller as immediately as I did with UNSUB, but I learned within the first few chapters that the hype over the past year has not been overrated. UNSUB is dark and wild and twisty and terrifying, and I loved every. Single. Moment.
When the unsub (AKA the Prophet) began his sadistic killing spree, the Bay Area was shrouded in death and terror for months on end. Caitlin Hendrix’s childhood was marked by his reign more than most – her father couldn’t help but bring the horrors home as one of the lead investigators on the case. And then, just as suddenly as it all began, the Prophet disappeared into the wind, seeming to take her father’s sanity with him.
Twenty years later, Caitlin has become a narcotics detective, following in her father’s footsteps yet at the same time trying to break free of his shadow. But when two bodies are discovered in a corn field bearing the nightmarish signature she’s far too well acquainted with, Caitlin knows there’s no one better suited to finding the answers that have eluded the police for decades. She was born for this.
The Prophet has her number, though, and the stakes get personal – quick. In a heart-pounding race against the clock, Caitlin must unravel the brain of a brilliant psychopath before history repeats itself and the darkness drags her down, too.
Wow. I feel like I took a breath at the start of the novel and was holding it all the way until the final page. This is far from your average crime fiction novel; something about UNSUB made itself known as unapologetically unique from the start. With meticulous attention to detail, Meg Gardiner weaves a terrifying world of non-stop action and horrors. It somehow manages to never feel unrealistic, which is half the haunting thrill: you can see it all unfolding right in front of you, like you’re living it yourself. I read this book over the course of three days, and I was constantly torn between never wanting it to end and wishing I could finish it in one sitting (there were definitely some unsettling dreams in between). It’s brutal. It’s intelligent. It’s unforgettable.
Caitlin is such a capable and level-headed main character, and it was just as enjoyable to watch her struggle her way toward the answers as it was to watch her triumph with the solutions. Far from perfect, her setbacks and short-sightedness add yet another level of realism to the story. She’s the best kind of protagonist, and I’m so glad this book isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of her.
(And as a side note – I love Caitlin and Sean’s relationship. While it’s by no means a central focus of the story, it’s so refreshing to see him stand by her when the darkness beckons and help to reel her back when she gets too close to the edge. It’s much more pleasantly surprising than it should be in a story with a powerful female lead, so, just, thank you, Meg Gardiner, for being one of the few authors to get it right.)
As the plot rushes towards the climax, the chapters grow short and choppy, and it feels like all you can do is hold on and get swept along for the ride. I was in awe how so many pieces came together perfectly for a thrilling and satisfying conclusion. I’m almost glad I waited so long to read this so that I don’t have an agonizing wait for the second book. Can you tell that this one’s going straight onto my favorites shelf? I absolutely can’t wait to see what comes next.