My first venture into the world of Mike Omer’s writing will surely not be one I forget. A serial killer novel that flips the genre on its head, Omer keeps the reader guessing throughout, in a piece that loses no momentum the deeper the plot. Dr. Zoe Bentley is an accomplished forensic psychologist with a passion for her work. When she is contracted to consult for the FBI, she leaps at the opportunity, getting neck-deep into a case that has been chilling Chicago to its core. While the local profiler scoffs at her ideas, FBI Special Agent Tatum Gray takes a liking to Bentley’s quirky side, though is kept in his place throughout the investigation. Someone has been murdering women and leaving them on public display, but not before embalming them, a unique act that has dubbed the killer the Strangling Undertaker. While investigating, Bentley cannot help but think back to a string of serial murders from her youth, which shocked her small town in Massachusetts. Bentley was sure she could identify the killer, but no one would listen to a teenager at the time. Back in Chicago, the killer seems to be getting sloppy and is almost caught, offering up a number of digital breadcrumbs on which the authorities can capitalise. When Bentley’s past and the current investigation collide, she cannot help but wonder if the horrors from two decades before might be rejuvenated, allowing a killer to whet their appetite again. Omer chills the reader to their core and provides the perfect mix of action and killer perspective to ensure the reader will come back for more. Those who love serial killer thrillers (what a tag-line for the sub-genre!) will want to keep this one on their list.
With the rise of certain television programmes, FBI profilers tend to be protagonists that are appearing throughout novels of this genre. That said, while anyone can spout out theories and ideas, it is the killer who deserves the praise, should they be thoughtful enough to provide a unique approach to crimes. Readers want to see new and intriguing ways to have their spines tingled, while trying to see what clues are left for synthesizing. Mike Omer does both very well and was able to keep me hooked, wondering throughout each passing chapter. Introducing Zoe Bentley’s character with such a backstory did much to convince me this would be a novel worth my time. I found her to be not only well-grounded throughout the investigation, providing both a serious and lighter side, but also to have a lovely, if dark, past as a teenager, which surely got her interested in all things serial killer. Omer balances these well and mixes them throughout the narrative, helping develop an attachment for the reader. Tatum Gray and some of the other characters laid the foundation for what could be a great series, should Omer continue with his strong FBI pairing, though there is likely a twist or two coming by next summer. The story was strong, yet did not get bogged down in too much psychological analysis, providing readers from all walks of life to feel comfortable navigating through the novel. Things flowed well and there were enough moments where the story took a twist so that the reader could not predict too much as things developed. Having not read any of Omer’s earlier work, I cannot comment on whether this venture into the genre is new or surprising, but I will say that he has made a fan out of me and I will keep my eyes peeled for the second Bentley instalment next July.
Kudos, Mr. Omer, for entertaining and educating in equal measure. You’ve made a fan out of me and I would venture that many others who take the time will sing your praises too!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons