Darkly and extravagantly imagined, full of pulse-pounding action and brutally emotional highs and lows, UNSUB is a tremendous work of suspense fiction. The nerve-shredding never lets up for a minute as Edgar Award-winner Meg Gardiner picks you up by the scruff of the neck and shakes you vigorously, over and over again, until finally shoving you to the ground, standing over you, and with a smile, asks if you’re ready to go again, with a sequel clearly already in the works. Canny plotting, tight prose, swift tempo; the only thing readers will be left wanting is more.
Two decades after a five-year murder spree that cost 11 lives and the sanity of Alameda County Sheriff’s Department Detective Mack Hendrix, the serial killer dubbed the Prophet resurfaces. Mack’s daughter, Caitlin — a freshly-appointed Narcotics detective — is assigned to Homicide to work the case, her superiors hoping she can utilise her father’s exhaustive knowledge of the killer to facilitate a quick resolution. But the Prophet is shrewder, bolder, and far more savage than ever, leaving taunting notes addressed to the wider public, and later to Caitlin herself. It’s clear he wants an audience as he builds to his psychotic, bloody crescendo, in a case that becomes significantly more personal for Caitlin.
Gardiner piles on the plot twists, false leads, violent set pieces and climactic surprises in a novel that at times strays into implausible territory as the Prophet’s schemes become increasingly grandiose, but with its breakneck pace and plethora of memorable homicides, readers won’t have a chance to second-guess its extravagances, and in fact, will appreciate its pedal-to-the-medal summer blockbuster style. Gardiner has a gift for sustaining momentum that never lets up, constantly upping the ante, topping off proceedings with a genuinely heart-stopping climax.
Agonisingly suspenseful, served up with pulpy panache and a hero to root for, UNSUB stands as the best thriller of the year, securely positioned as the book to beat.