Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: UNSUB, #2
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5 stars)
In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.
Caitlin and the FBI’s serial crime unit discover the first victim’s body in the woods. She’s laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest’s darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style–posed like Snow White awaiting her prince’s kiss.
To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homology–that elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasy–dolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin’s profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people’s trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.
When I read UNSUB earlier this year, it a) gave me nightmares, b) instantly catapulted to my favorites shelf, and c) made me crave more of both Meg Gardiner’s writing and Caitlin Hendrix’s spunk and intuition. That should give you some small idea of how incredibly excited I was to tackle the second book in the UNSUB series, Into the Black Nowhere.
It did not disappoint.
Meg Gardiner does it again with this equally brilliant and captivating sequel in which Caitlin Hendrix returns, this time as a fresh addition to the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI. The chilling work of a new serial killer brings her team to Solace, Texas, where the unsub is wreaking havoc on a small town by abducting women from increasingly daring locations on Saturday nights. When the bodies begin to turn up in the woods, dressed in white nightgowns and surrounded by Polaroids that suggest even more victims, the race to catch the killer is on and the stakes are higher than ever.
What makes Gardiner’s work so terrifying and gripping is its realism. Her attention to detail and clear familiarity with the work of serial killers and investigative processes transported me to the center of the action from the very first page. And the audacity of the abductions will give you goosebumps. Women are vanishing out of thin air in movie theaters, still-running cars in the middle of the road, even their own living rooms – and each clean getaway inspires the killer to grow bolder. Caitlin’s team profiles the unsub as someone who appears to be the Everyman – confident and charismatic, a liked figure in his community with a stable home life. He’s successful in putting forth a completely normal and believable façade to mask the evil inside of him. He could be your co-worker, your neighbor, your boyfriend.
The action and pacing are just as cinematic as UNSUB. I felt like I was right there in the passenger seat as Caitlin’s team raced around the country in a game of cat and mouse with a cold and calculated killer. I felt the same mad scramble to get one step ahead of him, the same heady rush of satisfaction when the clues began to click together. There’s only a brief lull in the action in the middle of the novel, and that lull is a deceiving reprieve. The tension quickly ratchets back up stays high all the way through a satisfying and pulse-pounding climax.
I adore Caitlin as a character. She’s so headstrong and skilled at what she does, and yet she’s wonderfully flawed. Gardiner has done a great job of yet again exposing both her strengths and weaknesses over the course of the novel. There was a larger emphasis placed on her behavioral profiling skills in this novel, and I loved seeing her shine at what breaking down exactly what makes the unsub tick. This time, Caitlin lets the serial killer past her mental walls in order to try to turn it against him, and the fallout fascinated me as she struggled to re-compartmentalize those parts of her past. There are several loose ends with her character at the end of the novel that make me all the more excited to see more of her in the future.
Into the Black Nowhere is such a strong follow-up to UNSUB and shows that Meg Gardiner really, really knows what she’s doing when it comes to writing thrillers that are equal parts terrifying, intelligent, and enthralling. I’m loving this series with all of my heart, and I’m eager to see where she draws inspiration from next. The Dark Corners of the Night can’t come soon enough.