Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Length: 375 pages
Source: eGalley via NetGalley
Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.
But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?
With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.
Protagonist: Cassie went through a horrible ordeal in the previous book when she discovered that her mentor turned out to not only be her aunt, but the serial killer she and the other Naturals had been tracking. When we first see her in this book, she's not over that experience, but she's trying to move past it making the most out of her life as one of the Naturals and helping to solve cold cases. However once again the Naturals are sucked into an active serial murder case, and like the last time this case hits home with one of their own. Since it had been so long since I read the first installment I wondered if I would have the same connection I had with Cassie, if she would seem different and somehow less after so long a time. In fact, she may have been better than before. There's a lot to love about Cassie, she's flawed sure, but not egregiously so, she cares almost too much and that can get her into trouble, she's impulsive and strong and wants so badly to be there for the people she's come to love. Her development in this fairly subtle, there are moments when it's easily seen, but there's even more going on between the lines on the page and it'll be hard to recognize it until it's already happened.
Romance: I don't remember all that much from the first installment, in fact I felt the need to read a recap of the book before starting this one, but one the thing I did remember was that there wasn't all that much emphasis on the romance and that the love triangle was written very well. While there may be a bit more attention on the romance this time around it still doesn't distract from the main plot of the story, nor does it overshadow it. I'm still not completely sure how to feel about the love triangle, while I still felt it was handled well, there were some moments that bothered me. During the course of this book it becomes clearer where Cassie's heart lies, and that makes her other love interest do and say some douchey things, it's nothing to terrible, more pet peeves of mine, and it's not necessarily because Cassie has feelings for someone else, more about the existing relationship between the two boys.
World-Building: I'm a huge fan of procedural dramas and I love how in many ways these books take inspiration from them. I get the same whodunnit feeling when I'm reading these books as I do when I'm watching shows like Bones and Criminal Minds. My favorite chapters are the "You" chapters where we go into the mind of the killer and learn small things about them, what their doing, and a bit about their mindset. There's actually quite a bit introduced in this book. Obviously we learn more about Dean and his past with his father. We learn about the horrors of his childhood and the things he had to do to survive. We are introduced to key new characters that expand this world and open up new doors we haven't seen before. I cannot stress enough how much I loved seeing these characters interact, learning about them, and watching their development through Cassie's eyes.
Predictability: The big twist in this story of course is about the UNSUB, the person who is committing these gruesome murders and I'll get to them in a bit. First however, I want to talk about the other surprises this book has in store. With all the information we learn comes a great slew of twists. Some of them there is foreshadowing for, however it's no where near enough to actually grasp what the twist is. There are also things that come out of the blue, things that there is no preparation for and seem added for shock value in addition to their other purpose in the story. Finally, there's the killer. I won't say too much but I have to say that I had trouble not trying to psychoanalyze and profile them as I read more about them in the story.
Ending: The ending for this book is a game changer in many ways. As the book comes to a close there is a crazy and tension filled final climax followed by and interesting cooling down period where everything for this case is wrapped up nice and neat. However, there are quite a few cliffhangers. It's nothing that would make readers wait in agony until they got their hands on the next installment, and actually most things have come to a sort of plateaued period. There are still many questions to be answered, and like I said there are game changing things in the end, none of which are all that shocking.
Like I said before I was unsure if I would still love this series after so long away from the series. I know my tastes in books has changed and I've become more discerning in what I like and don't like in stories, plus there's also the dreaded sophomore slump where the second book doesn't measure up to the first, but I ended up loving this book and can't wait for the next heart pounding and intense installment.