Into the Black Nowhere, Meg Gardiner (Dutton)

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Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB (2017) was a brilliantly constructed thriller that drew its inspiration from the Zodiac case. In the sequel, Gardiner uses Ted Bundy as a jumping-off point, creating her own terrifyingly charming killer who likes to lay his victims out on the ground, dressed up in nightgowns that didn’t belong to them, and to surround their bodies with photographs of the victims – frightening photos that reveal these women did not die peacefully.

Caitlin Hendrix, who was a Texas cop in UNSUB, is now working with the FBI. She and her colleagues put together a profile of the unknown killer, and soon they narrow their suspect pool to a specific individual – a man whose off-puttingly charming behavior and general aura of self-importance make him a very likely candidate. Caitlin goes way out on a limb, putting herself at personal risk to prove the man is a killer…but she hasn’t taken into account just how clever her target can be.

UNSUB was like a flash of lightning, lighting up the sky. It was raw, and urgent, and painful to read. In Caitlin Hendrix, it had a central character of great psychological depth. There was a chance Gardiner wouldn’t be able to surprise us again, a chance that a second Caitlin Hendrix story might feel like a rehash, a been-there-done-that letdown.

Instead, Into the Black Nowhere is not just a sequel that justifies its existence, but a sequel that feels like it absolutely had to be written. Caitlin in the aftermath of the tragedies of UNSUB is an even more compelling character, even more vulnerable, and by giving Caitlin a new job – a new sense of disorientation – Gardiner has stripped her of the comforts of home and friends. Caitlin is alone, in a new environment, trying to prove herself to her new colleagues…and trying, somehow, to catch a killer.

Will there be more Caitlin Hendrix novels? There damned well better be.

Copyright © David Pitt

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