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Into the Black Nowhere: An UNSUB Novel


Into the Black Nowhere: An UNSUB Novel

The second installment of Meg Gardiner's UNSUB series, INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE, is a blistering read. I am literally out of breath after finishing it. The pace is fast, and the characters are all super real, flesh-and-blood creations with whom you will enjoy spending time.

Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix and her team were first introduced in UNSUB, which was a terrific read on its own. INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE kicks things up several notches. Caitlin recently has been named to the elite FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, a role with which she can fully spread her wings and make quite a name for herself. To do this, she will need to put all of her profiling skills to the ultimate test.

Ironically, the book opens with a quote from serial killer Ted Bundy: “We serial killers are your sons, your husbands, we are everywhere.” These are chilling words, and I will get around to the ironic part shortly.

The term “UNSUB” has a few definitions, and the one that best fits this team is “Unknown Subject of a Criminal Investigation.” In this case, Caitlin and her team are after a Saturday night kidnapper and possible killer. The fact that this is the most popular night out of the week merely enhances the huge number of potential suspects.

What the UNSUB team is tasked with doing is putting together a victimology analysis. They need to look at all of the missing women and come up with some type of common trait or traits they shared. This will allow them to chip away at the large number of possible subjects, which is no small task. At the very least, the team must position themselves in the area where the victims were last seen and hope that on another Saturday night they will be near the suspect or suspects in question.

"INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE is relentless thriller writing at its finest. It takes the overcrowded serial killer subgenre to new levels, and I cannot wait for more."

The first victim's body is found in the woods, covered in blood and wearing a white nightgown. An eerie look that one of the investigators notes makes her resemble Snow White. A second victim follows shortly thereafter. The one chilling similarity between the two bodies is that each is surrounded by a number of crumpled old Polaroids. However, this is no time for celebrating. Aside from these photos, they have no forensics, clues or witnesses. The killer is very clever, and until they can complete some sort of a profile on why, who and how he is doing this, they are nowhere.

Fortunately, Caitlin is part of a great team. Her teammate, Agent Rainey, is another determined woman, and they work very well together. She also receives a lot of support from her team leader, Special Agent in Charge Emmerich. The territory in which the killer is working appears to be growing from the Midwest to Arizona, Nevada and eventually through the Pacific Northwest region. I won't reveal the tactics they use to narrow things down to one prime suspect. Trust me, it makes for some great reading and shows that Gardiner really knows her stuff.

All fingers appear to point to a popular and successful realtor named Kyle Detrick. They actually are turned on to him after another lead they had turned very cold --- an ex-military type who was blind from war injuries. Detrick is attractive and smooth. He also seems to fall somewhere between respected and adored by all his co-workers, and spends some of his free time volunteering at a crisis call center talking down suicidal callers. How could someone with this background be a potential serial killer? Well, Ted Bundy was a respected law student, but I'm still not up to the ironic twist involving him.

The team baits Detrick and eventually nails him attempting to kidnap one of their female agents who had gone undercover. However, Detrick remains smug and asserts his claim of innocence throughout his incarceration and arraignment. In fact, he seems to be enjoying things a bit too much. There are groups of young women labeled SKGs --- Serial Killer Groupies --- hanging outside the courthouse, hoping to catch a glimpse of the object of their affection. Caitlin, for one, cannot believe it. Detrick even indicates that once he is out, he will make her eat her words about him.

I don't think I'm giving away too much by saying that Detrick does indeed escape. In fact, this happens just a little over halfway through the novel, so you know that Gardiner is nowhere near done with the fun and games surrounding Detrick and the UNSUB team. The book’s most exciting and chilling passages involve their pursuit of Detrick. To make matters worse, the team begins to get the idea that Detrick may not be working alone.

As they continue their profile of Detrick, they look for anything that may lead them to where and when he will strike next. Everything seems to point them to Oregon and the college-age daughter of one of his near victims back at his home office. One of the most chilling scenes in the novel is when the gulf stream jet chartered by the UNSUB team makes its way through a bitter snowstorm to arrive in Portland, Oregon. Greenspring College in the Willamette Valley is where young Emily Hart is located. She defies the FBI order to stay put in the local police precinct and instead heads to the sorority house where she has just moved into.

It is here where Detrick will eventually end up, and that is what sent the ironic chill up my spine as I immediately thought of Ted Bundy, who infamously slaughtered his way through a sorority house during his epic killing spree. Will Caitlin and company be able to stop Detrick before the body count rises, or is the cleverest killer since Hannibal Lecter always going to be several steps ahead of them?

INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE is relentless thriller writing at its finest. It takes the overcrowded serial killer subgenre to new levels, and I cannot wait for more. The back cover indicates that UNSUB will soon be a television series on CBS. I am not sure how I feel about this. I am excited to see it, but think that network television may be far too tame for the sort of unbridled, brutal storytelling these books have produced. This one is sure to scare the dickens out of you and should not be forgotten come awards time this year.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on February 2, 2018

Into the Black Nowhere: An UNSUB Novel
by Meg Gardiner