Written in Blood (Robert Hunter #11), by Chris Carter

Nine stars

After devouring a sensational psychological thriller by an up and coming great author of the genre, she reminded me of her passion for Chris Carter and spoke highly of his work. With Carter’s latest on my teetering TBR pile, I knew it was time to pull it to the top and return to the dark world of serial killers, who are safe to roam the streets of LA until Detective Robert Hunter locks onto their scent. Carter offers yet another stunning novel that reminds me just how passionate I get about great writing and a disturbing plot line. With only a few weeks until Christmas, Angela Wood is doing her best to reap the rewards of being a pickpocket, that is, until she targets the wrong man. Her stash for the night may include a sizeable amount of money, but there’s also a satchel with a mysterious journal inside. After gazing at it for only a moment, Angela realises that she is in too deep and turns the journal over to the authorities in a way only she could devise. When the journal is revealed to Detective Robert Hunter of the Ultra Violent Crimes Unit of the LAPD, he and his partner, Carlos Garcia, begin at the start, only to realise what they have before them is a murder journal. The pages include a narrative about what ‘the voices’ are telling this person to do, which includes photos of the sixteen various victims. The names all match missing persons reports, but the deaths have never been reported and the bodies never found. Hunter and Garcia follow the precise coordinates offered for the first victim, which leads them to a coffin in the ground, one in which the victim was mishandled before and after death, as well as viewed as she suffocated, by web cam. As Hunter and Garcia delve deeper, they learn about Angela and her role in all of this. What begins as an interrogation soon turns into something much more dangerous, as the killer locks onto the lowly pickpocket and wants his journal back. When Hunter and Garcia learn more about the voices and the killer’s likely schizophrenia, they know that what they thought was real has taken a significant turn for the worse. After Angela is plucked from protective custody, the race is on, with a killer who only wants a journal and is prepared to kill anyone in his path for get it, turning Hunter into hunted! Stunning in its presentation, Chris Carter has done it again. Binge worthy writing if ever there was some in the genre! Recommended to those who need something dark and sadistic to keep their reading life spiced up, as well as the reader who cannot get enough of the genre.

I have never gone wrong since I picked up the first of the Robert Hunter novels. Chris Carter is a master craftsman and knows just how to lead the reader down a path before trapping them inside the prison that is his narrative. Robert Hunter is back for an eleventh (!) novel and could not be more in tune with his job. With no real backstory to add to his complex past, the book focuses on his present and some development, though things tend to be fairly case-centred for him. Hunter uses his intuitiveness and keen skills to hone in on the minutiae that help blow the case wide open, though he is not one to wait patiently when the clock is ticking. Series fans will likely enjoy his grit and determination, though he can sometimes lack the sense of humour needed to offset the work he does. The handful of secondary characters keep this story on point, while serving to help push the story in a forward direction. Carter knows which tools to use and when in order to make it an adventure the reader will not soon forget, flavouring the narrative with dialogue, development, and even some twists that no one saw coming. Offering clues like breadcrumbs, Carter begs the reader to follow, but warns that there may be no way out, save to finish this sadistic piece of writing, when the killer’s true intentions are revealed. The story is nothing less than I would expect from Carter and the rawness is something that some readers will likely find over the top. His mix of chapter lengths reel the reader in and force them to negotiate a web of intense emotions and a case that gets more complex the deeper Hunter delves. With that warning though, anyone prepared to allow themselves into a world where no depravity towards victims seems too much, Chris Carter is one of the only guides you’ll ever need!

Kudos, Mr. Carter, for another stellar piece of writing. I cannot wait to see what else you have to offer.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Hunting Evil (Robert Hunter #10), by Chris Carter

Eight stars

Chris Carter returns with another dark psychological thriller that pits Robert Hunter against some of the most departed individuals that readers will likely have encountered. Calling this tenth novel in the series a sequel, Carter asks the reader to refer back to a previous novel in order to get the full impact of the story. In the early chapters, the reader learns that serial killer, Lucien Folter, was able to escape from the confines of the prison that held him, leaving blood and bodies strewn all around. While this is a federal matter, LAPD Detective Robert Hunter is made aware, as this is one killer with whom he has a vested interest. Hunter cannot believe this sadistic man was treated so passively while imprisoned, allowing him to escape by luring guards out of their sense of apprehension. With Lucien on the loose, it is anyone’s guess where he might have gone or what he has in mind for his next act. When Hunter is contacted by his old nemesis, there is a connection from the early stages, one that will turn a simple game of cat and mouse into something deadly and sadistic in quick succession. Hunter is fully invested in the case, determined to bring this killer to his knees and off the streets once and for all. Using a series of covert riddles, Lucien lures Hunter to follow the clues in order to save scores of people from an indifferent killer’s antics, though nothing is guaranteed. Working alongside many of the ‘alphabet groups’ of federal organizations, Hunter can only hope that Lucien will offer too much in order to reveal his location. As the bodies pile up and the threats heighten, Hunter cannot help but wish he were anywhere else, though he is bound and determined to stop Lucien once again. A chilling tale that will have readers glued to the page until the very end, as psychological thriller meets serial killer, with the end result being a highly addictive novel. Highly recommended for those who love the Robert Hunter series or the reader who enjoys being highly disturbed as they devour a dark novel.

I stumbled upon Chris Carter’s series years ago, pulled in by the dark and sadistic nature of the story and multi-layered characters. Carter’s past work in television fits nicely into this fast-paced series that leaves little time to process. Robert Hunter remains a strong protagonist, though his weaker and more human side continues to shine through in this piece. With a killer that Hunter has known for decades, the reader can see a decent struggle within the protagonist, helping to peel back the hard exterior throughout this piece. Hunter is driven to solve crimes, though his isolation from much of society leaves the reader wanting to understand a little more. Carter injects some emotional aspects to Hunter’s character and shows him as highly vulnerable. As with many of Carter’s novels, the antagonist is as gripping as any character presented. Dark and sadistic, Lucien Folter is the epitome of the serial killer who plays ‘puppet master’ with ease. His paced acts and riddles keep the story moving forward while offering shocking results when he turns to killing. Having been incarcerated and isolated, Lucien seeks revenge against those who stole his freedom, including a man he has known since they met in college. The Hunter-Folter clash is a theme throughout the novel, though it is by no means balanced from start to finish. Other characters offer interesting perspectives for the reader to discover, though the stars steal the show throughout this wonderful novel. Themes throughout the book seek to chill the reader and provide an entertaining progression. Perhaps some of the darkest writing I have read within the genre, Carter entertains and educates throughout, while keeping the reader feeling squeamish throughout the process. I can never get enough of Carter’s work, which allows Robert Hunter to grow and develop, seen by series fans over the past decade or so. Highly addictive and stunning in its delivery, this is a series not to be missed.

Kudos, Mr. Carter, for another wonderful novel in this series. I can see how you’d want readers to have read the original encounter between Hunter and Folter, though I am always a fan of reading a series in order throughout.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Gallery of the Dead (Robert Hunter #9), by Chris Carter

Nine stars

Chris Carter is back with his ninth instalment of the Robert Hunter series, keeping the story as captivating as ever and the serial killing as gruesome as one might expect. A cell phone call beckons Robert Hunter away at the most inopportune time. A detective within Ultra Violent Crimes (UVC), the most exclusive branch of the LAPD’s Robbery Homicide Division, Hunter and his partner, Carlos Garcia make their way to one of the most gut-churning crime scenes they’ve ever encountered. The victim has had her hands and feet severed and all but a small portion of her skin removed. Upon that untampered piece of flesh, a cryptic message in Latin about beauty. Sure that they are dealing with the most sadistic killer ever to cross the desks of UVC, Hunter and Garcia begin trying to decipher what it all means. Soon, their squad room is filled with three individuals from Washington, as the FBI has a keen interest in the case. Could it be that this killer has more victims outside of Los Angeles. Working for the first time alongside the FBI on a case, Hunter and Garcia learn that the killer—called The Surgeon for the attention he has paid to each victim—has committed at least three murders across the United States, his message only slightly different on each body. While the authorities try to put their heads together, another victim turns up in Arizona, forcing the team to leave the confines of Los Angeles. Hunter has some theories, though every discovery opens new and baffling aspects about this killer. Lurking in the shadows, the man called The Surgeon has more targets in mind, chosen for a specific purpose; to add to his gallery of the dead. Carter offers up one of his most convincing pieces yet with this series that does not stop. Series fans will love this piece and it ought to fuel new readers to begin this collection without delay, especially with the cliffhanger that awaits.

Perhaps one of the greatest psychological thriller writers I have ever discovered, Chris Carter has a masterful way of pulling the reader in during those crucial first chapters and then refuses to let go. How something so disturbing can—like a gruesome car wreck—leave the reader unable to turn away, I will never understand, but Carter does it each time. While the novels no longer focus their attention on protagonist backstory, Robert Hunter continues to thrive with is dry sense of humour and constant delivery of factoids, which enhances the story and educates the reader in equal order. As with each novel, Carter introduces a powerful collection of secondary characters, who not only serve their purpose in the narrative, but also offer a slice of backstory to keep the reader intrigued by them. Some develop in the novel and others remain needed bridges to larger story arcs, all of which tie together by the end. Carter’s utilisation not only of a strong narrative and dialogue, but peppering the story with explanations about serial murder, forensics, and police procedures brings the story to life in a way that few other novels can, placing the reader in the middle of all and on the frontline of any surprises that emerge. These novels, as I have told many people who are seeking something intense, are not cookie-cutter thrillers, in that the serial murderers and the means of killing do not repeat. Each novel provides new and exciting avenues for fans and pulls them in with the simple discovery of a body in some sadistic set-up. It is that addictive factor—that cannot be explained—which serves to turn this series into something so explosive.

Kudos, Mr. Carter, for never letting us down with your writing. I cannot wait to see what Book 10 brings, especially with that ending you provided in this piece.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Caller (Robert Hunter #8), by Chris Carter

Nine stars

Returning for yet another stunning psychological thriller, Chris Carter proves why he is the master of the genre. Detective Robert Hunter is again ready to find the most depraved killers in Los Angeles. As part of the LAPD’s Ultra Violent Crimes Unit, Hunter and his partner, Carlos Garcia, place it all on the line to find those with psychopathic tendencies. When a young woman receives a video call from her friend, it looks to be a simple ‘face to face’ catch-up. However, things take a terrible turn when a killer is involved and requires answers to two basic questions. Failure to reply in a set time frame and the caller (the victim whose phone placed the call) will face the consequences. After failing to answer the second, seemingly benign, question, the killer smashes the caller’s face into a container of glass shards, forcing the other to watch through the cellphone screen, helpless. When Hunter and Garcia arrive to begin looking for clues or leads, they discover the most basic description of the killer will take them nowhere, as a sadistic mask was used and voice-altering technology negates any digital breadcrumbs. With his mind that works exponentially faster than anyone else, Hunter begins trying to piece things together, while also juggling a potential new romantic interest. Called away to a second scene, Hunter not only discovers the body of a middle-aged woman, but a husband who seems more focussed on revenge than grief. It is here that the man, dubbed Mr. J, begins his own hunt for the killer, using his personal and work contacts to follow his own trail. While Hunter and Garcia marvel at the evil the killer is inflicting on the victims and those forced to watch, Mr. J is making headway of his own. It’s now a race to see who will find the killer first and what sort of justice will come from the apprehension. Carter stuns fans with another wonderful piece and reminds me why I enjoy his dark thrillers so much. Series fans will likely be highly impressed, alongside new readers who will be pulled in before they can turn away.

It was years ago that I stumbled upon Chris Carter and his work. I have never looked back, nor have I wanted to. Using Robert Hunter as the protagonist and weaving together his varied and quite unique backstory, Carter creates a detective who not only strives on finding the killer, but also wants to get inside his mind. No killer is too deceptive and no crime too horrible to keep Hunter from asking the tough questions, even if he is the only person interested in the discussion. From this point, it is the cast of characters that flesh out the story, with a sadistic killer, whose methods and madness make the book for me, at the centre of this game. It is the thought process, the inherent justification, that really interests me more than anything else. Some may say the story is too gruesome or that the narrative is too reliant on the weak female. To those people, I offer my raised eyebrow and surmise that they ought not to have stumbled into this genre if they wanted something prim, proper, and pitiful. The crux of these novels are their disturbing aspects and that issues pulled from the headlines or social norms can be placed under the microscope. I thoroughly enjoy them for that reason and I would encourage anyone who can relax their literary gag reflex to join the party as well. You will not be disappointed.

Kudos, Mr. Carter, for delivering another stellar novel. I am eager to see what awaits us in the coming months. By then the trolls and vapid complainers will surely have found something else to enjoy.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons