I love Meg Gardiner. She is a favourite author of mine. Anything she writes I want to read. Anything she has to say about writing, I want to hear. She is a smart, detail-oriented author with a talent for writing action-packed mysteries with perfectly placed twists.
UNSUB is, by far, my new favourite novel by her.
It takes elements from famous serial killers, both real and fictional, and boils it down into one epic, smart and intricate serial killer crime thriller.
Lort, have mercy on my mystery bookworm soul!
A quick synopsis: Caitlin is a cop. Her dad use to be a cop, but he’s gone Coocoo for Cocopuffs after hunting a madman, The Prophet, 20 years ago and never catching him. Present day, The Prophet is back, killing again in bloody crazy fashion, and it’s Caitlin’s turn to stop him.
Obviously inspired by the Zodiac’s true crimes, it also take elements from things like Se7en, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, Untraceable…and those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head, though I am sure there are more.
Some people might hate this, and I can understand why if it reminds you too much of the works its inspired by, but to me, Gardiner brought together all of my favourite dark and twisty things, and she did it in a way that rang as unique, not lifted.
And, honestly, it seems like me and Meg Gardiner have the same taste in entertainment so like, obviously we’re meant to be BFFs and watch scary movies together in our jammies. Hit me up, gurl!
Meg Gardiner is a master of character writing. Nothing is overwrought or too packed with description, but somehow through all the action and procedural elements you still get a perfect feeling of the characters. They are tangible and emotional, which really amps up the drama all around.
If you care about the character, you care about the things happening around them.
Caitlin is badass, but emotional almost to the point of having mental health issues. This fine line that is walked expertly, making her a new favourite female leads in her realness, and her ability to play with the big boys, even though she’s technically a rookie. Her relationship with her father didn’t suffocate the paragraphs, but the tension created by each short interaction, and conversation, brought their personal demons to life. Her relationship with her boyfriend, Sean, was also perfectly drawn. Just the right amount of love to bring some light to the overall dark tone of the novel, and amp up some of the risks.
Gritty, gorey and twisty, this a page-turner with a steadily paced plot that keeps ramping up the suspense and tension. You get just enough backstory, emotional drama and moments of levity that create a very human experience set around a fantastical killer with ridiculous motives and murder tableaus.
This is the shit.
Haters to the left.
*Migrated review: Originally posted on Goodreads in August 2017
Back of the Book:
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?