Book Review: Into the Black Nowhere, An UNSUB Novel
Also by this author: UNSUB
Series: UNSUB #2
Published by Dutton on January 30th 2018
Genres: Thriller, Mystery
Also in this series: UNSUB
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
I read the first book in Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB series earlier this month and absolutely devoured it. It was a 5-star read for me that was filled with suspense, memorable characters (including a badass heroine), a disturbing yet riveting storyline, great action scenes, and just an overall fascinating look at the psychology of a serial killer. Because I enjoyed UNSUB so much, I began reading its follow-up Into the Black Nowhere with very high expectations. And thankfully, I wasn’t at all disappointed. Just like its predecessor, Into the Black Nowhere hooked me from the first page and didn’t let me go until I reached the nail biting conclusion. I think I’ve found myself a new favorite series!
As in UNSUB, Into the Black Nowhere follows Caitlyn Hendrix, only now, instead of working as a police detective in California, she has taken a job as a rookie FBI agent in the Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Virginia. Caitlyn is still adjusting to her new job and life in Virginia, as well as trying to make a long distance relationship work with Sean, whom we met in UNSUB, but ultimately she is dedicated to her career and ready to catch a predator.
Caitlyn’s team is called to a town in Southern Texas where blonde women have been disappearing – one from a movie theater, one from a car that was stopped at a traffic light, and one from her own home. Local law enforcement suspects they have a predator on their hands and so Caitlyn’s team is called in to help build a psychological profile of the UNSUB so that a suspect can hopefully be identified before any other women go missing. When the bodies of two of the women are found in the woods, dressed in white nighties with heavily made up faces and slashed wrists, it becomes clear that they are looking for a serial killer, one that was likely inspired by Ted Bundy. What’s even more disturbing is that not only has the UNSUB posed the bodies of these victims, but he has also surrounded them with Polaroid photos of other blonde women, potential victims that law enforcement hasn’t identified yet. It becomes a race against the clock for Caitlyn and her team to catch this UNSUB before he hurts anyone else.
They are quickly able to get inside of their killer’s head and build a profile of the suspect, and with the help of a phone tip, they actually think they’ve found their guy. This guy is a piece of work too. He’s arrogant, cunning, and manipulative, but is also charming enough to get almost anyone around him to let their guard down so it makes sense how he’s so easily able to accumulate so many victims. Even though Caitlyn and her team are sure they have the right guy, the problem is that all they have on him so far is a lot of circumstantial evidence and so he keeps eluding them.
It seems like it’s almost a game to him, like he thrives on this game of cat and mouse, trying to stay one step ahead of law enforcement, but then he even manages to get inside of Caitlyn’s head. He finds and exploits her weaknesses, bringing things from her past up that she had hoped would remain buried and leaving her feeling vulnerable and exposed. This of course makes her all the more determined to bring him down.
Can Caitlyn keep the UNSUB out of her head so that she can effectively do her job? And can she and her team find the evidence they need in order to stop this monster once and for all?
I’m still loving Caitlyn Hendrix in this second book. She’s just as fierce and focused on tracking down killers as she was in UNSUB, but still has that slightly vulnerable side as the killer manages to get inside of her head and make her face some demons from her past. I like for the characters I’m reading about to have those layers of complexity so they don’t just come across as cardboard cutouts, which can often happen in thrillers because the characters take a backseat to the case at hand. Not Caitlyn, she is fully-fleshed out and shows a lot of growth from the first book to the second, and even within the second.
In addition to adoring Caitlyn, I also thought her partner, Rainey, was amazing. Rainey is the other female agent on her team, and Rainey is even more of a badass than Caitlyn. Together the two of them make a formidable team and so I loved every scene that paired them together. I hope to see them work together a lot more in future books in the series.
Gardiner not only writes fantastic characters, she is also a master at writing suspense. I love following along with Caitlyn and the other agents as they uncover detail after detail about the killer and get ever closer to nailing him. I was literally on the edge of my seat watching them frantically search for any clues that could help them take him down. The added detail that he only takes his victims on Saturday added an extra layer of suspense and tension because the agents know they’re on a race against the clock and know exactly what their deadline is before another woman goes missing. The tension and sense of unease is so real in this book that I found myself looking over my own shoulder while reading. It was just that creepy.
With all of that tension and suspense building up, I guess it goes without saying that this is a fast-paced book. I read it from cover to cover in two days and found myself irritated every time I had to put the book down because I was so invested in the story.
My only real issue with Into the Black Nowhere was that rather than address the cliffhanger that we were left with at the end of UNSUB, Caitlyn and her team instead move on to a new case, and it’s one that doesn’t appear to be at all related to the case from the first book. In my mind, it does makes sense not to immediately revisit that case. Based on the way the first book ended and how soon the second book seems to follow the first, it’s probably too soon, but I’m just impatient and really want to know how that cliffhanger is going to play out!
I also would have liked a little more interaction between Caitlyn and her boyfriend, Sean. They worked the first case together and I loved their chemistry together, both personally and professionally, so I missed that this time around since their relationship was relegated to the occasional phone call. There were some hints along the way in this book, however, that lead me to believe they may end up working together on a future case, so I definitely look forward to that possibility.
Considering that I’m already anxiously awaiting the third book in this series, it’s safe to conclude that I recommend Into the Black Nowhere just as highly as I recommended UNSUB earlier this month. Meg Gardiner has blown me away with the first two installments of this series and is now on my list of auto-buy authors.
Inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, an exhilarating thriller in which FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix faces off against a charming, merciless serial killer.
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.