Late at night, Shana Kerber hears her baby crying. Like any good mother, she gets out of bed to comfort the child. She thinks nothing of it. The baby has cried before, and it will cry again, that is just life; therefore, sensing no danger, and why should she, Shana leaves her shotgun, which is situated under her bed in her bedroom, right where it is. When Shana locates her baby, she is not in her room in her crib, where she should be, but is on the sofa in the living room, in the arms of an unwelcomed stranger. Unbeknownst to Shana, she is about to become the fifth woman to be abducted by the stranger in the past six-months. The only silver lining in Shana’s waking nightmare, is that her abductor leaves the baby unharmed.
Rookie, FBI agent, Caitlin Hendrix, has uprooted her life from California, and now resides in Virginia, where she works in the Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico. She maintain, as best she can, a long distance relationship, with Sean Rawlins, the man she loves, a single father, who works as a bomb specialist for the ATF. Her latest case, involves an unsub (unknown subject of a criminal investigation), who has been abducting women along the I-35 corridor in Southern Texas. One of the victims was taken from a movie theater, another from a railroad crossing while her car waited for the train to pass, and the latest victim, the aforementioned, Shana Kerber. Time is of the essence, because the killer, at least as it has been so far determined, strikes on Saturday evenings, and the time period between abductions is decreasing, the more he alludes capture. This fact leaves Caitlin and the members of her team, Special Agent in Charge, profiler C.J. Emmerich, and seasoned agent, Brianne Rainey, little time to generate leads before the next victim is abducted.
The discovery of the bodies of two of the victims doesn’t take long, confirming what has been suspected, that the women being abducted, are not only taken for whatever gratification the killer gets from his time with them, but that they are ultimately being killed. The bodies are discovered in a wooded area. Both are dressed in bloodstained, white nightgowns, and each victim’s wrists have been slit, as if they had committed suicide; however, the wounds are not self-inflicted. Furthermore, placed near the bodies are Polaroid pictures, depicting the victims’ bodies posed, as referenced in the novel, as if they were Snow White, waiting for the prince to come kiss them and bring them back to life.
During the early stages of the investigation, a potential solid lead is called in to the agents by Lia Fox. She is convinced, based upon the information that has been released to the general public, that her ex-boyfriend from college, Aaron Gage, is the man responsible for the abductions. When his background is looked into, he does seem to be a good fit for the profile that the team has compiled regarding the unsub, but a serious problem arises when the agents pay him a visit in person. The lead, however, turns out not to be a dead end, because it points the agents in the direction of another individual. His name is Kyle Detrick. He’s a real estate broker, who comes across to those that he meets as charming, intelligent, and someone, who, from all outward appearances, is living a normal life; a man who is active in his church, volunteers at a suicide prevention hotline, and is involved in a loving relationship with a woman, and her child from a previous marriage. Caitlin, however, is convinced, from sheer gut instinct, that Detrick is the perpetrator, but with only circumstantial evidence to back up her feelings, he remains a free man.
The second half of the novel is a real page turner, as the game of cat and mouse between Caitlin and the FBI, and the killer intensifies. Caitlin, the determined agent, is inexorably pushing herself to the point of mental and physical exhaustion, in an effort to keep more innocent women from being killed. The more she attempts to bring the killer to justice, and the tactics she uses to get the killer to make a mistake, the more her own demons begin to eat away at her; thoughts and feelings she must keep in check if she is to be successful. Conversely, the killer, is seemingly always one step ahead, even when it appears he has been caught, captured, and on his way to being tried for the crimes for which he is accused. Luck seems to be on his side, as time and again, through a series of events, he evades being brought to justice.
The suspenseful “Into the Black Nowhere” written by bestselling author, Meg Gardiner, was published on January 30, 2018 by Penguin Publishing Group. The novel is the second installment in Gardiner’s Unsub series, the first novel titled “UNSUB” was published on June 27, 2017 by Dutton, and, in brief, it concerns itself with a killer modeled after the never apprehended Zodiac Killer. Those of you who are turned off by graphic descriptions of gore, that are sometimes associated with books of this kind, need not worry. Gardiner, while providing detail-oriented, realistic prose as to the world she is writing about, never gets excessive in her descriptions, or includes gore just for the sake of shock value. She does, however, provide enough information, but never allows the reader to know ahead of time, who the killer is, or what they will do next, before the FBI agents learn the same information. She also leaves certain parts ambiguous until the latter part of the novel, providing interesting twists, to make the reader think that not all might be as it appears with the characters who populate her novel.
Like any good book I read, I had trouble putting “Into the Black Nowhere” down, wanting to read just a few more pages before going to bed, and of course, I paid for it the next morning, but it was worth it. I wasn’t familiar with Meg Gardiner until this novel, but I look forward to reading her earlier works, as well as the next, yet to be released novel in the Unsub series.