Grave Instinct

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In America's heartland a madman is killing women and removing their brains. But for what ghastly purpose? It's up to FBI pathologist Jessica Coran to find out—and when she does she gets a front row seat to the killer's final shocking moves.
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Overview

In America's heartland a madman is killing women and removing their brains. But for what ghastly purpose? It's up to FBI pathologist Jessica Coran to find out—and when she does she gets a front row seat to the killer's final shocking moves.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425191705
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/2/2003
  • Series: Jessica Coran Series , #10
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.72 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Read an Excerpt

ONE

Duval County, Jacksonville, Florida
June 6, 2003

Grant Kenyon grabbed his head in his hands and pleaded, "Stop asking me to kill. Stop making me kill." Grant sat upright in the lonely Jax-Town Motel bed in his empty room, catching glimpses of his mirror reflection as if it were someone else. "It is someone else. Sure," he said aloud to himself, yet if he worked at it, he recognized something in the twisted image--the boyish face, the sad and deep-set eyes. But here in the semidark, there was something else going on. Nothing fit--not his features, not his manner and not this place so far from his wife, Emily, and little Hildy. Staring into the looking glass, he felt that the real Grant Kenyon had fallen into it and metamorphosed into what he now saw. "It's really not me, this guy in the mirror. It's some other force that has hold of me."

He lifted the beer and toasted to the uncanny image toasting back, and he hated what he saw.

He clawed his way to a standing position and, once sure of his footing, Grant bellowed and charged at the reflected image now moving toward him--that other entity--and they nearly collided where they met, face-to-face. "What the hell do you want from me?" he asked the stranger in the mirror.

"Just do what you're told" replied the other.

"Leave me, now! I don't want this...this kind of life... this possession of me by...by you."

His reflected image in the half-light showed an irregular brow, eyes too close together, a crooked nose larger on one side than the other, a sad set of dark eyes, a mouth in perpetual downturn. Do I feel as bad as I look? he wondered.

"I've grown 350 percent since your ancestors crawled out of the muck, Grant," his reflection said, as if it had a brain independent of his.

Grant beat a fist on the bureau top and glared at his Hydelike reflection. "Damn you, how many times're you going to tell me that? How fucking many times? I am pleading with you, my insistent brain, to never repeat that goddamn number again."

"Three hundred fifty," it replied.

"I've heard it all before."

"Your simian ancestors discovered that eating the brains of their enemies increased their mental capacity," the reflection said. "Read about all the folk remedies of the Chinese, Tibetans, Hindus and Arabs."

"I know...I've heard you say it a thousand times. I know man's brain is a stimulant, an aphrodisiac, a medicine to expand the powers of rational mind."

The man in the mirror grimly replied, "Then you know why we're doing what you're doing."

"I'm not doing a damn thing. You...you're doing it," he replied to his reflection. "And I won't allow it again! Not once more. I forbid--"

"Not once more. Not once more," mocked his mind of the distorted image. Then the voice turned deadly serious. "What are you saying, Grant?"

"I'm saying, don't lie to me. It's not working. I know it's a twisted obsession, a morbid craving that--"

"Me? Lie? But me is you and you is me, Grant."

"All that crap about your being somehow special, the descendent of all the prophets, all the philosophers, all the teachers, the wise men and the great spiritual leaders since time began."

"How then do you account for me, Grant? The most highly organized material substance on Earth----the human brain?"

"You're just an organ, an electrochemical factory."

"Nonsense! I am the great raveled knot, the----"

"I've heard it all be--"

"--world has ever known. I am the enchanted loom, the giant--"

"I don't want to hear it!" Grant tore out tufts of his hair, hoping the self-inflicted pain would blot out the voice inside the him inside the mirror. It failed to help.

"Within this 'chemical factory,' as you call me, are the secrets of the universe. I...you...us...we have the blood of kings running through our veins, Grant. The molecules of Plato and Aristotle. We...us...we're on the verge of complete enlightenment, on the verge of becoming pure energy, Grant. You must understand that?"

"So hang in there?" he scoffed at his reflection. He then violently shook his head, while his reflection maintained calm. Staring directly at his own forehead, he said, "Mind... mind you are so damn repetitive, so please, I'm begging you. Shut off! Piss off!"

For a brief second, his brain was silent. Then it said to him, "I need nourishing until the metamorphosis comes, Grant."

"I ought to just kill you."

"I am you, Grant, and you are I, and we are what we are."

"We are what we are?" Grant asked.

"So you must feed me."

Grant thought of the taste of the gray brain matter he had already fed on. He had tried it in casserole form, even in Hamburger Helper to mask the taste. "Feed you...from the brains of virtuous young women."

"As virtuous as we can find. Now feed me."

"But it's murder, what you've made me do."

"God doth work in mysterious ways indeed. His wonders to perform."

"Now you're claiming to be God? At least it's a new approach."

"God is in the over mind, the cosmic mind, Dr. Grant."

"What more can you possibly want from me? Already I've taken two lives, two souls for you."

"It's not enough."

"It's not? Well, tell me, what is enough with you? Three, six, nine, nine hundred?"

"We are seeking out the over mind, the cosmic being here, Grant. No one said it was going to be easy!"

Someone next door pounded loudly on the wall. The clock flipped to 1:35 a.m.

Some teens or children raced down the hallway en route to or from the pool, even this late. Their racing shadows slowed to peep beneath his door.

"So you want me to dissect another person for her brain. Why not dead children like Daryl Cahil did in Newark and Morristown in '89 and '90? You sure he wasn't on the right track?"

"No dead bodies. We tried that, remember, at your morgue? As for children...too much uncontrolled thought and nervous, directionless energy, and you don't need that."

"No...that's a certainty."

"Young women are pliable, their minds energetic and well modulated and, Grant, don't tell me you get no satisfaction out of it. You may be able to lie to your ego, but you can't lie to me, Grant old boy."

"How can I derive pleasure from it? I have no conscious memory of it happening until you fill me in. You got a name?"

"It's 'Phillip' if it helps, and I have enough conscious memory of the feedings for both of us, Grant, so no guilt afterward."

"But none of this...it's not normal."

"Normal is as normal does. What's normal, Grant? What's normal enough?"

"For me or for you, you mean?"

"For anyone. Look, just accept it, and get on with it. If you can't face yourself, Grant, then I'll do it for you. A nice compromise for that tiresome phrase, 'To thine own self,' all that..."

He turned to the bed, his reflection doing the same with the reflected bed in the mirror. Each curled up in opposite dimensions, each wary of the other, but Grant in this world could not move away from his brain sitting atop his head. He momentarily wondered if the guy in the mirror could escape his brain. Then he wondered what he meant by "his brain." Was it sensible to say that his mirror image was carrying his brain as well as his features? Or was the mirror-man's brain separate from his own?

"No more thoughts of getting rid of us. OK, Dr. Grant? All that's behind us, right?" His brain spoke now from the coiled recesses and fissures of the cerebral cortex.

"No...no such thoughts."

"I know....I've been monitoring."

A knock at the door. The food from a carry-out deli that specialized in giving the customer what he wanted. Grant prayed the delivery boy was a boy and not a girl. He got up, found his wallet and opened the door on a pimply-faced young man with a dour and sleepy look. They exchanged food for money, and Grant returned to bed with the food and drink, giving silent thanks for the specialty order--a cheese, egg and brains calzone and a bottle of V8 juice.

"Brain food," he muttered and bit into the calzone.

Kansas City Public Library

The following day

The nineteen-year-old community college student had nowhere but the library to work on her paper, since the computer center was closed on Sundays. She had set up everything she needed and had begun surfing the World Wide Web for information on the brain and functions of the mind for her term paper assignment. She logged on to something dealing with the cosmic mind, the strangest Web page she had ever come across. She forgot about her term paper and simply read:

The flesh, blood and body of man is nothing to the brain which houses the soul.

"That's beautiful," she said aloud. She read on:

As the great thinkers and poets of all time have pointed out time and again--the beauty of the soul lies in the mind. The brain stem, the medulla oblongata, the pons Varolii, the reticular formation, the cerebellum, the cranial and trigeminal nerves, all these masterful works control every movement of the body down to the twitch. The tenth cranial nerve alone controls the ear, neck, lungs, heart and abdominal viscera. It controls breath and digestion, all at the direction of the mind.

Man's brain is larger than that of ten prehistoric reptiles that measured one hundred feet long but whose brains were the size of walnuts. According to evolutionists, man's brain began growing at an unprecedented rate one million years ago. Strangely, the mind of man is, a million years later, still trying to determine its own power and energy, and the source of that energy. Many cannibalistic tribes reported to eat the brains of their enemies killed in battle claim they have touched on that power, glimpsed it, as a result of brain--feeding. If you are interested in knowing more about the mystery of the collective universal soul inherent in the brain, read on....

The student hesitated, unsure she wanted to read on. There seemed to be something ominous about this information. Still, it was intriguing, and if there was something to it--that cannibals had some sort of insight into the very deepest inner workings of the universe through a recognition of the soul housed in the human brain--then perhaps she ought to write her paper on that. But who would believe it?

She paused her hand over the keys, trying to decide whether to move on to some information more in keeping with an encyclopedia or to continue on this strange Web page. Either way, time was running out. That paper and Mrs. Weston weren't going to wait. Maybe the safe and conservative road was best, after all.

But her eyes, unlike her fingers, weren't poised. They read on....

--from Grave Instinct by Robert W. Walker, copyright © 2003 Robert W. Walker, published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2005

    Seriously Scary and entertaining

    This is one fun roller-coaster ride the author puts you on, You never know what is coming next, and I loved the way he used public access to computers in libraries and schools as a way for the evil to spread. The killer here doesn't want much from you, just a thumbnail piece of your brain...but getting at it....well, it gets messy. You gotta love Walker's unique plot twists. Like I said, a real roller-coaster of a ride.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2005

    Absolutley the best Serial Killer Series

    If you love Patricia Cornwell you will absolutely want to read the instinct series featuring Jessica Coran. I have read them all and they are the best serial killer series I have ever read. I cannot wait till Absolute Instinct comes out in paperback. I suggest you read them in order since they tell a story about Jessica Coran, but you can read them on their own. They are all a fast read,intense,suspenseful and you can't wait till you find out the ending. I also read Patricia Cornwell,John Sandford,Anne Frasier and Kathy Reichs. Robert W. Walker is definetly in the big league. 5 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2003

    FABULA-FANTASTIC READ

    Amazing author this Walker fellow. He continues to grow as a writer even after a decade of doing the Edge books and the Instinct titles, and with this GRAVE Instinct the 'master' of the serial killer novel since BEFORE Silence of the Lambs has outdone the master--himself. Combine all the best elements of all others writing the medical thriller and the forensics stuff, and you have Robert W. Walker straddling overhead of the likes of...well any and all his competition! He makes them all look like girl scouts by comparison. His rich text is only exceeded by his outrageous yet satisfying leaps and mind boggling twists, combined with an uncanny ability to crawl around inside the head of a lunatic mind and place you there as that lunatic and completely in simpatico with his/her lunacy. Wow! Imagine it. What Robin Williams does for humor, Robert Walker does for edgy suspense verging on horror. How many other writers must read and learn from this man? His research is impeccable and so interwoven as to make it part of the lace of the tale. He has mastered an astounding style that lets fewer than a hundred passive verbs pass his narrative lips in an 80,000 word novel here! A feat in itself. This stylistic architecture of the author's plan is so unique and fulfilling. So dramatic and cinematic that you see every detail in your mind's eye. His language ability and approach has to be from a keen mind that understands the underpinnings of our language on the order of a modern day Shakespeare in a sense. The sure-footedness and unique imagery and his deft hand with the shears of language amaze one. Walker understand the rudimentary elements of style itself, and like a dynamo this makes for a dramatic, fast- paced read that spins and spirals and twists and turns like a great and breathtaking runaway train ride. And when you think it is over, no it is not. There must be six endings to this novel and each is more satisfying than the previous one. And parents of 9 and up really must sit their children down with Walker's young adult historical novels--modern day classics on the order of Johnny Tremain and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn all rolled into one--Daniel Webster Jackson & The Wrongway Railway, and Gideon Tell & The Siege of Vicksburg from Royal Fireworks Press.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2003

    His Best!

    Robert W. Walker proves himself the leader in the serial killer-thriller genre with the best book ever in his ongoing Instinct series. Continuing herione FBI forensic pathologist Jessica Coran faces off against her deadliest adversary yet in the Skull-digger, a psycho who kills to eat brains. The action is swift, the pace is relentless, and the ending will blow you away with tension and surprise. Kudos to Walker, who should gain a whole legion of new fans with this book, while completely satisfying his die-hards.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Well written chilling thriller

    Rather than harm his wife and child, Dr. Grant Kenyon and his alter ego ¿Phillip¿ moved out of his home in New Jersey and trolled I-95 for females. Once Grant snatched the innocent young woman, Phillip would take over and surgically cut the brain out and eat it. He believes that eating fresh human brains will increase his awareness and achieve cosmic consciousness. Grant is modeling his behavior after Daryl Thomas Chockil ¿The New Jersey Ghoul¿ who dug up the bodies of dead children in 1990 and ate a part of their brain. <P> He was incarcerated in a hospital for the mentally insane but has gotten out a month before the skull-digger started killing his victims. The FBI immediately focus their attention on Daryl but medical examiner Dr. Jessica Coran thinks the real killer is setting up The New Jersey Ghoul to take the fall. She persuades her superiors to look for someone who keeps logging on to Daniel¿s website and after a ton of digging, they find a likely suspect but Jessica almost gets herself killed when she tries to take him in.<P> Robert W. Walker can always be counted on to create an exciting crime thriller with a villain that readers love to hate. Told from the point of view of the killer, the audience learns that the character suffers from multiple personality disorder but he is so evil, he illicits no sympathy. The novel is also told from the protagonist¿s point of view and readers sympathize with her feelings of impotence and frustration as she tries to convince her superiors to go after the right person, not the easiest one to blame.<P> Harriet Klausner

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