Ever since the publication of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS thriller authors have been trying to recapture the magic of Thomas Harris’s masterpiece by working from the same playbook. Likewise with David Fincher’s nihilistic, deadly-sins-themed film SE7EN. In UNSUB, Meg Gardiner blends the two to create a pretty basic stew that you’re gonna see coming like the final minutes of a bukakke telethon.
Caitlyn Hendrix is your every-woman with daddy issues. Nothing new there. The daddy who gave her issues is a disgraced cop who came super close to catching the killer Caitlyn is now tasked with catching, and you’ve seen all this before. Ya got your journalist/red herring, your fuck buddy/dude-in-distress, your AP Lit-studying serial killer, and you’ve. read. this. book. before.
What Gardiner gets right is the blistering pace and the machine-gun prose. She doesn’t waste any time with needless information, and instead face-fucks you with a continuous stream of murders, bait-and-switches, and one cool-as-polar-bear-testicles beat-the-clock scene that had me sweating profusely and panting like a dog locked in a car under the Arizona sun with all four winders up and the heater’s dial crunk to Satan’s Taint.
The supporting characters are serviceable, and the deaths/crimes scenes are interesting enough to warrant a read, but the main reason to give this one a try is that it’s brainless summertime fun. You’re not gonna have to think too hard while chillaxing and sipping daiquiris under your garishly-colored sun-brella. You’re not gonna wanna throttle your kids when they interrupt your reading to tell you they dropped a Baby Ruth in the pool and now the CDC is on site. In fact, if you do find yourself thinking whatsoever, you’re gonna figure out everything before Gardiner wants you to, so try and log off, ya dig? Just shutdown and go with the flow and you should have a good time.
There’s a sequel called INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE and I will be reading it because I didn’t hate the MC and people told me that it’s much better than this one, so once it hits paperback we’ll see what it do, Perdue.
In summation: If you’ve ever read a popular thriller, you’ve read this book. But that’s the thriller genre in general. If you’re a fan of the genre, you show up expecting interesting crime scenes, strict adherence to formulae, and white-knuckle pacing, not deep character development and originality. Books like this are the natural evolution of the dime-store pulp detective novels of yesteryear, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you dig this kinda thing, get you some.
Final Judgment: Somewhere between James Patterson and Michael Connelly.