A novel by Harlan Coben
Book review by Jules Brenner
Little, Brown & Co., released 6/3/2019, 480 pp., $28.00
Return to list of books

One of two things will happen to you if you see things others don't. You'll be recognized for extraordinary skill and perhaps be lavishly praised; or you'll be derided for wasting your time in a fantasy world. If you're in the FBI, there's a third possibility: you could become a suspect. In fact, that's more than a little likely.

Senior FBI analyst Emily Jean Dockery is basically in that quandary. Her skill is in paying attention to small details in what have been assumed to be cases of accidental death -- and locking such minutiea into memory! When this ability awakens her to a commonality in several recent accidental death reports, she's convinced that another serial killer is on the loose.

"Another," that is, after the one in the authors' previous Emmy Dockery yarn, "Invisible," in which a series of arson deaths, including her sister's, have been ruled "accidental" but which she identified and proved had been the work of Graham, a diabolical, sadistic serial killer who left her with lacerations, burns and a punctured lung. She, however, left Graham dead.

The high praise she receives when she is finally discharged from the hospital does little to convince her peers to take her analysis seriously when she uncovers another series of deaths:

"Each of them was an activist or and advocate for the poor, sick, or elderly. Each was found dead at home. Each lived alone in a one-story house within a block or two of mass transit. Each either had the house up for sal or had recently bought it--"

Yet, from Oregon to Louisiana, this is all going down as the work of "natural causes." But, how are they natural when each victim's body is marked with puncture patterns?

She tries in vain to get an autopsy ordered by anyone at the agency to substantiate the meaning of the new line of victims with these tell-tale markers. Meanwhile, Charlie -- the killer himself -- is lurking,, watching her, reading newspaper articles about her while staying safely ahead of where her solo investigation is leading, impressed by her skilled prowess and looking forward to telling her how right she's been about him and his "work" all along.

Her discovery is met with typical cop and Bureau skepticism. They just don't seem to learn. Even handsome special agent "Books," aka Harrison Bookman -- her ex-fiance'! -- instead of rushing to her side in support, isn't dismissing the possibility that she, herself, could be the perp. (It's all complicated by this need for a romantic element, but the entanglement pays off).

One of the mysteries that occurred to me as I read this book was why Patterson and Ellis used the "copycat killer" idea. It comes off, rather, as a self-copycat writing team as the parallelism is more confusing than illuminating.

Not my favorite Patterson/Ellis collaboration product, but it's always worth the time to see how this team works overstuffed thematic content out, even when it seems a bit rushed.

If you don't yet own Unsolved and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.