An avid book nerd, Jennifer Branton loves to share her favorite book finds with her readers.
The Saturday Night Killer
On a Saturday night, a young mother is awaken in her home by the cries of her young baby on a cold Texas night, for the moment trying to ignore the cries, she relents and follows the noise to find a stranger in her living room holding her child. Into The Black Nowhere begins like every good crime novel and author Meg Gardiner, pens the second addition to the UNSUB series much like any episode of a great crime drama. In fact the series is said to soon be an upcoming television series for CBS.
The novel speaks of a two mile radius that is the hunting ground for a sinister killer- targeting blond women around the same height and build, the victims ranging from 19 to late twenties. The UNSUB is brash, charismatic and is able to lure his victims from public places without a second glance, gaining their trust until he is able to abduct them.
Before finally killing his victims and leaving them in the woods, photo evidence suggests he keeps them alive for a short period of time, slitting their wrists, and cutting them before ceremoniously dressing the victims into white nightgowns and painting up their faces in almost garish makeup to keep them decorated as the decay begins to set in. To keep them beautiful and his.
A young mother is the fifth victim to disappear, but as the FBI is called in and rookie agent, Caitlin Hendrix begins to investigate the case, many other victims begin to pile up that got in the way of her cat and mouse game with a mad man.
Just hours after the arrival of the FBI, the latest victim is found and Hendrix tries in vain to get a connection between the victims.
The youngest was just nineteen, the oldest late twenties. Several of the women had attended the same high school, but not at the same year and there was no connection that they had known each other. One woman had a criminal record. As the police ask the public for help, yet another young woman goes missing in a shopping mall parking garage and the video shows the woman being lured away under her own accord by someone just off screen.
Kayley Fallows, 21 Taken from outside a cafe where she was on a smoke break.
Heather Gooden, 19 Taken from a college campus when walking from her dorm to a coffee house.
Veronica Lees, 26 Taken from inside a movie theater as she went to the concession stand.
Phoebe Canova, 22 Taken from her car, left still idling in park while waiting at a train crossing.
Shana Kerber, 24 Taken from her residence.
Other than a similar appearance, and being within the age range of around their twenties, what did the earlier victims have in common, the FBI wonder as another victim is taken.
The public isn't much help until a woman named Lia Fox requests to give her information about an ex boyfriend, Aaron Gage who had a drinking problem and a temper claiming that after she had an argument and was thinking of leaving him, he had set the apartment on fire and she was lucky to have escaped. She later claims that he would then stalk her and stand outside the apartment and stare at her, often leaving mutilated dolls with the arms ripped off and melted faces on her doorstep. The final straw was the death of her cat, who was found with his throat slit and surrounded by pictures of Lia sleeping- similar to the FBI discovery of Shana Kerber's body as they rolled into town.
Caitlin believes this after seeing a picture that was saved of how the cat's body was found and decides to pay a visit to Aaron Gage, now eighteen years after the incident.
She finds that he now has a family and has done several tours in the military where he cleaned up his act and now the disabled veteran was a much better person than he admits to being in his college days. He speaks of a roommate at the time that he was dating Lia, a roommate that showed a little too much attention to her often peeping on her in the shower and doing strange things like trying to smell her clothing, and showing off in front of her and he insinuated that perhaps it was his former friend that deliberately set the fire to try to prove himself a hero that night by getting everyone out safely.
Caitlin takes interest in this information and believes that Gage can not be the killer with his disability and moves on to find his former college friend.
Kyle Detrick, has done well in life. Working in real estate, he is charming, handsome, and even volunteers at the Crisis Hotline in town. Caitlin notes he drives a large company SUV, and that a large inconspicuous car that wouldn't seem out of place all is part of the profile of their killer. Believing that Detrick might be a suspect, he quickly becomes cocky as she tries to get more information from his and decides to use his volunteer work against him by calling the hotline and posing as a woman suffering from depression- playing into her own past where her father had suffered from depression and attempted suicide. Caitlin too has a past of depression and cutting and digs deep using her dark past to play her character on the phone.
Detrick falls for the bait and shows too much attention and describes her fantasies about death and dying as beautiful. It is only a matter of time until they can trap Detrick believing they have their man and that he is using depressed women that have called the Crisis line as a way to find victims.
After setting up a blond female officer to trap Detrick, they find him with a tire iron in his coat and book him as the suspect. He escapes before his hearing after a female accomplice, seduced by his charm attacks another Agent.
Like an great UNSUB, Into The Black Nowhere, never really explains what exactly made Detrick what most of us would consider crazy.
Later explanation from Lia Fox shows that she had gotten the entire thing wrong and that she was secretly also having a relationship with Kyle Detrick at the same time as Aaron Gage and that it could have easily have been Detrick that later stalked her and killed her cat after she tried to break off the relationship. She claims that she dropped out of college due to the stress of the incident and couldn't explain this to her family- but it was found that she also has a teen daughter that would have been born around the same time of leaving college and her daughter suddenly becomes a pawn in the case after Lia is killed.
Was it Detrick's long obsession with Lia that lead him down the road of being a serial killer?
It was be interesting to see how more books in this series play out, especially with the coming of a television show in the future. Into The Black Nowhere is a fast paced, page turner that keeps you guessing.
I assumed that either we were going to be thrown off the trail by the introduction of Detrick, or that it would have been Gage- or both- all along, so that was a little disappointing to have the first suspect actually be the killer, and I would have liked a little more explanation of why Detrick had begun this obsession. Had he really waited eighteen years to kill a woman similar to someone he knew in college?
Maybe the story could use a little more fleshing out at that point, but it was a cleverly written tale that is worthy of read- if only it kept you guessing a little longer than the man hunt had lasted.