After the harrowing events of UNSUB, Caitlin Hendrix has been recruited by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. This is where readers will find her at the start of Meg Gardiner’s Into the Black Nowhere. Like the first book in the series, Gardiner molds a classic serial killer storyline inspired by real events into a gripping and timeless thriller.
When it becomes clear that a serial killer is at work in Texas, Caitlin Hendrix is part of the team sent in to investigate. Given that Hendrix is a new FBI recruit, she has a lot to learn and this allows the author to explain more of the inner workings of the organization – which would feel unrealistic otherwise. Since it is the backbone of the series, Gardiner spends a lot of time detailing how profilers do their work, how procedural decisions are made and executed, and how local and national forces navigate the tricky dynamics of working jointly.
After some preliminary investigation into the deaths of seemingly random woman whose bodies are publicly posed and dressed in white negligees, the team sets their sights on one particular suspect – one who has ties to a suicide prevention hotline. Whether he is truly guilty or not, readers will know that this man is not a good guy and the ensuing cat and mouse game designed to catch him is as tense as one would expect. In these later sections, pages fly as readers worry about the safety of all members of this ensemble team.
By riffing on actual serial killer cases, Meg Gardiner gives readers something that is familiar, but the fictional aspects allow her to deploy surprises within that framework. Sure, the suspect in Into the Black Nowhere is as charming and charismatic as we have been told Ted Bundy was, but that is about where the similarities end. Meg Gardiner crafts characters readers can relate to – regardless of where they fall on the guilt vs innocent spectrum.
Less time is spent on Caitlin Hendrix’s personal life in Into the Black Nowhere, but a major development in the final pages of the novel not only sets up the third book in the series, but also hints at the possibility that Caitlin and Sean will be working the same case in that new book.
No one can fault Meg Gardiner’s writing. Her extensive research into the Behavioral Analysis Unit is conveyed authentically, but is never overdone. She keeps things clear and concise for the readers without ever talking down to them. And when those thrilling moments arrive, few writers can keep the propulsive energy at top notch for as long as Meg Gardiner can – and does. Anyone who thinks men dominate the thriller genre has clearly never ventured into the words and work of Meg Gardiner. Rectify that immediately!
SCHEDULING REMINDER: Don’t forget that Meg Gardiner joins a stellar list of panelists for the thriller panel I am moderating at Bouchercon in St. Petersburg, Florida next week. If you are attending, we would love to see you there. Please do say hello!