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: