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In this exhilarating thriller inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix faces off against a charming, merciless serial killer.
In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI's elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.
Caitlin and the FBI's serial crime unit discover the first victim's body in the woods. She's laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest's darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-styleposed like Snow White awaiting her prince's kiss.
To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homologythat elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasydolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin's profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people's trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
MEG GARDINER is the author of thirteen critically acclaimed novels, including UNSUB and China Lake, which won the Edgar Award. Originally from Santa Barbara, California, she lives in Austin, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2018 Meg Gardiner
The cry pierced the walls, ringing through the darkness. Shana Kerber roused and squinted at the clock. Twelve forty five A.M.
Her voice came as a sigh. "Already:"
Shana huddled for a minute under the comforter, clinging wish fully to warmth and sleep. Hush yourself, Jaydee. Please. But the baby's crying intensified. It was her strong, wide awake, I'm hungry cry.
The night was bitter. Early February, the north wind scouring Texas. It whistled through the cracks in the farmhouse, rattling the doors in their frames. Shana rolled over. The other side of the bed was cool. Brandon wasn't home yet.
For a few more seconds Shana lay still, aching with fatigue, hoping Jaydee would quiet. But she was crying to beat the band. Ten months old and still up twice a night. Shana's mom swore things would get easier. She'd been swearing so for months. When, Mom? Please, when?
"Coming, baby," Shana murmured.
She tossed back the covers, brushed her sleep tangled hair from her face, and slogged out of the bedroom. The hardwood floor creaked beneath her bare feet. Jaydee's cries grew clearer.
Six feet down the hall, she slowed. The crying wasn't coming from the nursery.
The house was completely dark. Jaydee was too little to climb out of her crib.
Shana turned on the hall light. The nursery door was open.
A sliver of ice seemed to slide through her chest. At the far end of the hall she could see into the living room. On the sofa, half lit by the hall light, a stranger sat holding her little girl on his lap.
The icy sliver sank through Shana. "What are you doing here?'
"Don't worry. I'm a friend of your husband." The man's face was in shadow. His voice was soothing-almost warm. "She was crying. Didn't want to wake you."
He seemed completely relaxed. Shana walked slowly to the living room. She glanced out the front window. The moon was full. An SUV was parked outside. A placard hung from the rearview mirror.
"Is that…" She looked him up and down. "Army? Are you ..."
The baby twisted in the man's arms. He bounced her. "She's quite the little doll."
He tickled Jaydee and made baby talk. Shana tried harder to see his face. His eyes remained in shadow. Something stopped her from turning on the table lamp.
Is he a friend of Brandon's?
Shana extended her hands. "I’ll take her."
The wind battered the windows. The man's smile persisted. Though she couldn't see his eyes, Shana had a gut certainty that he was watching her.
She edged forward. She was eight feet from him. Out of his reach. "Give Jaydee to me."
Her hands were open. "Please."
Jaydee twisted in the man's arms. Her chubby legs pumped like pistons. Shana's heart thundered. She saw the power in the man's hands and knew she couldn't simply charge at him.
The shotgun was under her bed. Five seconds was what it would take to run to the bedroom, grab it, and rush back down the hall. It was a twelve gauge. It was loaded.
And it was useless, because this man was holding her child to his chest. Her breathing caught, like a cloth snagging on a nail.
She inched forward. "Give her here."
For a few seconds, he continued bouncing Jaydee. Crying, the little girl reached starfish fingers toward Shana.
"She wants her mama," the man said. "Aww, come here."
Shana held still, her own arms outstretched. "Give me my baby."
The smile stiffened. The man set Jaydee gently beside him on the sofa.
Before Shana could inhale, he lowered his shoulders, gathering himself. He was in motion when the light finally hit his eyes.
The dashboard clock read one thirty A.M. when Brandon Kerber turned into the gravel driveway. The truck bounced over the ruts, stereo blasting Chris Stapleton. Brandon whistled along. His rare Saturday night out had been golden-a Spurs game in San Antonio with friends from his army days. He curved past the stand of cedars and the house came into view.
The front door was open.
Brandon gunned the F-150 up to the house. The windows reflected the truck's headlights like wild eyes. He jumped out. In the wind, the door was banging back against the wall. An acid taste burned his throat. Banging that loud should have woken Shana up. Inside the darkened house, he heard a mournful sound.
Brandon rushed in. The living room was cold. The headlights threw his shadow ahead of him on the floor like a blade. The crying kept up. It was the baby.
Jaydee lay huddled on the floor. He scooped her up. "Shana?"
He hit a light switch. The living room lit up, neat, clean, and empty. Jaydee's eyes were red rimmed. She was exhausted from sobbing. He pulled her to his chest. Her cries diminished to pathetic hiccups.
Brandon ran to the bedroom with the baby and flipped on the light. He spun and strode down the hall, looking in the nursery. In the kitchen. The garage. The back porch.
Nothing. Shana was gone.
He stood in the living room, clutching Jaydee, telling himself, She's here. I just can't see her.
But the truth closed in on him. Shana had vanished.
She was the fifth.
Early morning shadows slashed the road. The sun blazed gold through the pines. Caitlin Hendrix accelerated and swung her Highlander into the grounds of the FBI Academy in Quantico.
Beneath her black winter coat, her credentials were clipped to the left side of her belt. Her Glock 19M was holstered on the right. The text on her phone read, Solace, Texas.
Caitlin got out, and the freezing wind lifted her auburn hair off her shoulders. The Virginia winter constantly reminded her she was an outsider here. She liked it that way. It kept her on her toes.
She buzzed through the door and headed for the Behavioral Analysis Unit.
Suspected serial abductions,the text read.
The people Caitlin passed walked faster than the detectives she'd worked with back at the Alameda Sheriffs Office. They turned corners more crisply. She missed her Bay Area colleagues-missed their pride and camaraderie. But she loved seeing FBI on her creds, with the words Special Agent beneath her name.
Phones rang. Beyond the windows, the blue glass walls of the FBI Laboratory complex reflected the rising sun.
Caitlin approached her desk in BAU 4, where she was currently one of eight agents and analysts assigned to Crimes Against Adults. She said good morning to her colleagues as they arrived. Everyone had received the same text.
The Behavioral Analysis Unit was a department of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime-a branch of the Critical Incident Response Group. Its mission involved investigating unusual or repetitive violent crimes. Critical incident response meant that when a hot case came to the BAU, it acted, and fast, because time was limited and people were in danger.
She barely had time to take off her coat before an office door opened at the far end of the room.
"Don't get comfortable."
People looked over. Special Agent in Charge C.J. Emmerich strode toward them.
"Five women have disappeared from Gideon County, Texas, in the last six months. The latest was two nights ago," he said. "The victims have all vanished on a Saturday night. And the period between abductions is diminishing."
Emmerich's gaze swept the room and landed on Caitlin.
"Escalation," she said.
His nod was brief. "Commonalities between the abductions indicate that we're dealing with a single offender. Someone who's growing bolder, more confident."
Emmerich was her official mentor as an agent-in training. A legendary profiler, he radiated such self discipline that it unsettled her. Solemn, intense, he attacked cases like a hawk attacks prey. When he swooped in for a kill, his talons were sharp.
"The Gideon County Sheriff’s Office has requested our assistance," he said.
His assistant stood and passed out file folders. Caitlin flipped through hers.
Escalation. She scanned the pages in the file, looking for exactly what that word meant in this case.
She was no longer a raw rookie but was still finding her feet as a criminal profiler. She had a cop's experience and instincts; she was learning to interpret crime scene evidence, forensics, and victimology to build a picture of a perpetrator. Profiling was based on the insight that everything at a crime scene tells a story and reveals something about the criminal. The BAU studied offender behavior to uncover how they thought, predict how they would escalate-and apprehend them before they could put any others in danger.
"The victims have been taken from public places and their own homes," Emmerich said. "No witnesses, and so far, no probative forensic evidence. As the sheriff put it, they simply vanished."
Vanished. Caitlin's eye was drawn to the composite sketch pinned above her desk.
White male, late twenties. The sketch caught his slit-eyed stare and casual menace. He had walked past her in a California biker bar. Later, in a dark tunnel, he'd crucified her hand with a nail gun.
The Bureau's facial recognition software couldn't identify him. He was the Ghost: a killer, a betrayer, a hiss in the wiring. He had helped the serial killer known as the Prophet murder seven people, including her father.
He'd promised they would meet again. She was waiting for his call.
But that couldn't rate her attention this morning.
She turned a page in the file folder and saw a photo: a woman in her mid-twenties, only a few years younger than she was. Lively eyes, a self-assured smile, halo gold hair.
Shana Kerber. Caitlin lingered on the photo, wishing she could tell her, Hold on. People are searching for you.
"It's been twenty nine hours since the latest abduction," Emmerich said. "The locals need us on scene while there's still a significant chance to find this victim alive. And if we can find her, maybe there's a chance to save the others."
He pointed at Caitlin and another agent. Caitlin's pulse kicked up a beat.
"Grab your go bags. Flight leaves Dulles for Austin at ten thirty."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was great kept me engaged with the characters. I felt I was there with them. Can't wait for another.
I absolutely loved the locale of this book! Of course, duh, it would be Austin. HA!! This book kept me mesmerized for hours and I loved it!!!! So many suspected characters for me that, of course, did not work quite that way. Ahhh, the joy of a good book!!!! I do have to say that Caitlin did tend to get on my nerves a little with her self analysis and issues. However, I still enjoyed the book. A lot!!! Thanks to Penguin Group Dutton and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Thank you NetGalley for the copy of Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner that I read and reviewed. This book blew my mind especially the end. I can't wait until the third book in the UNSUB series comes out. I can't believe how the book ended. I want more more more and more of this series and I can't wait to see what is going to happen next. My mouth is still hanging open and I waited until the next day to write this review just to let my mind wrap around everything that happened, the ending blew my mind that much. Now for the rest of the book, I loved that was well. Even though Caitlin pretty much knew who her killer was it was still a great read and in typical Gardiner fashion there were a few curves thrown in for the reader that kept the book exciting and kept the reader guessing about what was really going on. This series gets better with each book and I can't wait until the next one comes out. Gardiner set it up beautifully. Into the Black Nowhere gets five out of five stars.
Wow! That's all I can say. Meg Gardiner somehow topped UNSUB with Into the Black Nowhere. This story just doesn't stop. The plot continues to plow through. This book is an emotional rollercoaster. It will make you frightened, uncomfortable in your own skin, laugh, cry, and everything in between. This is a cover-to-cover nonstop adrenaline rush. I was so incredibly impressed with this book, that I ordered some of Gardiner's older books last night. I flew through this book in less than 24 hours. The only thing I didn't like was that the book had to end. Don't wait another minute, and order this fantastic thriller by Meg Gardiner.
I loved the first book in Meg Gardiner's UNSUB series, and was so excited to read the second. It did not disappoint... so many twists, turns, and intrigue. Rooting for Caitlin the entire time as she tries to balance work, catch a psychopath, and a her long-distance relationship with Sean. I loved that the mystery unraveled the way it did -- never quite figuring out the entire story until it smacked you in the face (like it did to Caitlin). A wonderful read -- could not put it down. Hope there's many more UNSUB stories to tell.
I really enjoyed this book! I was a huge fan of the first book in this series, UNSUB, so I was really excited to read this one. I will admit that I didn't like this book quite as much as the first book in the series but it was a very strong book. I was hooked by this book from the very start and enjoyed it to the very end. This series has quickly made its way onto my must read list. Caitlin is now working as an FBI profiler. She goes to Texas with a couple of other members of her team to look into a string of abductions. Women are disappearing and residents are starting to be frightened. There are no clues and nobody knows whether the women are dead or alive. Caitlin and the team start working on putting together a profile for the perpetrator. Most of the book follow Caitlin as she works through the clues to get in the head of the perpetrator. We do get the chance to see things closer to the criminal from time to time as well which worked well in the story. I was a bit surprised by how early in the book the team narrows down the list of suspects and subsequently catches the individual responsible. I had a feeling that there were a few more surprises in store and was excited when things followed that path. I liked the characters in this book. Caitlin is smart and has great instincts. She really is focused on finding the criminal and puts everything into the job. Sean and Michelle do play a role in this book but it is much smaller. I have to admit that I would have liked to have a little more Sean in this book. I did like seeing Caitlin struggle with being away from people in her life and felt it helped round out her character. This was a fast moving story. The opening scene was very strong and really set the tone for the story. I did think that the book slowed down just a bit towards the middle but everything picked up quickly and ended with a ton of action. Things don't always go well for the team and there were more than a few surprises along the way. I really liked the fact that as soon as I thought I had something figured out I would soon find that I knew less than I thought. I would highly recommend this book to fans of mystery thrillers. This is the second book in the UNSUB series but could easily be read as a stand alone since it tells its own story. This is a fast paced story that kept me thinking until the thrilling end. I can't wait to read the next book in this amazing series! I received an advance reader edition of this book from Penguin Group Viking - Dutton Books via NetGalley.
Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner is a very highly recommended psychological thriller/procedural inspired by the Ted Bundy case. This is an outstanding followup to UNSUB (6/27/17) Caitlin Hendrix is back as a rookie FBI agent in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. She is assigned to a case in Solace, Texas, near Austin, where women are disappearing on Saturday nights. There are six confirmed, but there may be more. The women, all blond, are disappearing from a wide variety of places - a movie theater, out of her car at a train crossing, from a mall parking lot, even from her home - and the clues are few. When they find their first body, the scene is disturbing. The victim is laid out on the ground wearing a white nightgown, and a second body is found deeper in the woods, also dressed in a white nightgown. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid pictures, stuck in the ground like headstones. All the photos are of blond women wearing a white nightgown and obviously dead. It is Caitlin's job to profile the unsub (unknown subject), get into his mind, and determine how he selects his victims. The team ends up profiling a confident, charming, meticulous killer who somehow convinces his victims that he is not a threat. After they lower their guard, he takes them. At that point they are just a part of his twisted need to possess, control and destroy them. There is a tip that leads them to one suspect, who they watch closely, waiting for him to make a misstep. But he is also an expert in his own way at profiling people, identifying their weaknesses, and manipulating them. Into the Black Nowhere is another complex, intense, fast-paced novel full of nail-biting suspense with a riveting plot. Honestly, I was hooked before even opening the novel after reading her brilliant UNSUB and knowing Into the Black Nowhere featured Caitlin and continued her story. Caitlin was already a well-developed character, flawed, but smart, insightful, and strong. The character development continues here along with Caitlin's profiling skills - interpreting clues, and insight into the suspect's actions. I can hardly wait for Caitlin's next case. I loved the complexity of the plot and the twists it took. Sure it was based on the actions of Ted Bundy, but Gardiner takes this and does an excellent job using it to create a thriller to remember. Caitlin continues to be intelligent and clever. By sheer determination she will get the suspect. She's a great character and this is an exceptional series. It is no wonder a TV drama based on this series is in the works at CBS. Yet again, this is definitely a stuck-over-night-at-the-airport book that will keep you awake and hold your complete attention - only you'll want to be in a well lite area, maybe near security. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Publishing Group via Netgalley.
UNSUB #2 is the FBI term for an unknown subject of a criminal investigation. Meg Gardiner is a master of crime drama, clue finding and intense character development. Amazing story of a serial killer with the FBI investigators on his trail. Reading this makes me want to read the first in the series but i got along fine with the plot and characters so Into the Black Nowhere stands alone nicely. Caitlin Hendrix follows the trail of a serial killer with the expertise that makes for a great book. Ends are tied up by the last page but a tale is dangled to lead into the next installment. Great author that will join my must read list. "A copy of this book was provided by PENGUIN GROUP Dutton via Netgalley with no requirements for a review. Comments here are my honest opinion."