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A Killer's Mind (Zoe Bentley Mystery, 1) Hardcover – August 1, 2018
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The New York Times and Washington Post bestselling serial-killer thriller that will leave you wondering, is the past really in the past?
Three Chicago women have been found strangled, embalmed, and posed as if still alive. Doubting the findings of the local PD’s profiler, The FBI calls on forensic psychologist Zoe Bentley to investigate.
Zoe quickly gets off on the wrong foot with her new partner, Special Agent Tatum Gray. Zoe’s a hunter, intense and focused; Tatum’s a smug maverick with little respect for the rules. Together, they must descend into a serial killer’s psyche and untangle his twisted fantasies, or more women will die. But when the contents of three inconspicuous envelopes reveal a chilling connection to gruesome murders from Zoe’s childhood, suddenly the hunter becomes the hunted.
About the Author
Mike Omer has been a journalist, a game developer, and the CEO of Loadingames, but he can currently be found penning the next in his series of thrillers featuring forensic psychologist Zoe Bentley. Omer loves to write about two things: real people who could be the perpetrators or victims of crimes―and funny stuff. He mixes these two loves quite passionately into his often-macabre, suspenseful mysteries. Omer is married to a woman who diligently forces him to live his dream, and he is father to an angel, a pixie, and a gremlin. He has two voracious hounds that wag their tails quite menacingly at anyone who dares approach his home.
- Publisher : Thomas & Mercer (August 1, 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 380 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1503901904
- ISBN-13 : 978-1503901902
- Item Weight : 1.15 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #440,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on August 28, 2018
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MY REVIEW 2 STARS**
I just finished A KILLER'S MIND, the author's first installment of his new series featuring Dr. Zoe Bentley. His protagonist is a 33-year-old auburn haired green-eyed compact package of energy and brain power. The lady boasts a doctorate in psychology from Harvard plus a JD from the prestigious university just for good measure. She was recruited for her expertise as a criminal profiler to assist the FBI's famous BAU, which dips a toe into the stream of the sci-fi genre since Zoe is a civilian consultant. The serial killer at large in Chicago sounded like an imaginative departure from the usual serial killer fare, and at first blush this book sounded like it might be right up my alley.
My Kindle First Reads folder had been ignored throughout 2018, and all of the books on its virtual shelf were gathering imaginary dust. I don't actually make "New Year's Resolutions" anymore, but I did make a "note to 'self" to select one novel each month. I thought of this as both "housecleaning" on my Kindle Paperwhite and perhaps discovering a talented author unfamiliar to me that I might enjoy enough to became a fan.
The AMAZON CUSTOMER REVIEWS on this book are "unbelievable". 94% of over 4000 REVIEWS rate this book 4 or 5 STARS, and an astonishing almost three-quarters of those reviews 5-Stars. Did I mention that this fictional crime novel by Mike Omer is also an AMAZON BEST SELLER?
After I finished reading the last page of A KILLER'S MIND last night, with likely a puzzled expression on my face, I calmly perused the first couple of AMAZON REVIEWS and saw the following bubbly reassurance from a Top Reviewer: "I am glad I took a chance on this as my Kindle First Read selection."
This review is from a staunch outlier with strong convictions. Initially I had to consciously decide to stick with it to at least the 25% mark before I shelved it with a rating of "1 Star" beside it. For me, it was almost immediately "putdownable". The reason I decided to grit my teeth and plod through this novel, taking it "one step at a time" lest I fall off the wagon, is simply because I wanted the opportunity to write an honest review.
The fictional characters in this serial killer thriller are written to be real flesh and blood people but instead of fleshing out the characters that populate this purported serious crime novel, the author focuses his energy like a laser beam on serving up a despicable comedy routine. I hated the "material" so bad that it was all I could do to continue reading.
FBI Agent Tatum Gray is introduced to the reader by CH.3 (4% into the book) when he clashes with our protagonist Zoe in the hall at Quantico. Zoe happens to run into him...literally...the folder she is carrying impacts his stomach rather like a battering ram. And "He was tall, with wide shoulders and a mane of jet-black hair"..."eyes were brown and deep, hidden under thick dark eyebrows." He looked to Zoe "like an older version of a smug college boy on a football scholarship".
Tatum sounds a little too perfect to be taken seriously. Zoe, on the other hand, comes across as just too "whacky" to be taken seriously. She perseveres on trying to remember to buy shampoo until I am ready to scream. The caffeine addiction, whether real or exaggerated, is just but one of those "Give me a break" moments (and I don't mean a "coffee break"). Seven (7) cups an absolute necessity to start the day? She came across to me as an introverted card-carrying nerd too eccentric to be taken seriously as a brilliant forensic psychologist. I found myself wondering how she could profile a killer with such a preoccupation on shampoo and her hands trembling and heart racing from a boat load of caffeine. Then I just marveled as I read about her orgasmic experience spawned by the consumption of a "magical meal" of salmon and pasta prepared by her younger sister Andrea. However, later it is apparent that the young woman has an oral fixation with the food on her plate (It doesn't need to be a gourmet meal). Zoe eating eggs and bacon is a textbook example of ritualistic behavior typical of OCD. But I have digressed. Let's move on to the author's comedy routine.
The reader is treated to strong, sexy Tatum awakening from sleep and staring into the eyes of his "ugly orange tomcat" named Freckle. This was a jarring experience for our FBI Agent, and it was clarified that he did not want his cat near the bed. He glanced around the perimeter for his water pistol to blast the cat in the face. Such unsuccessful attempts at levity were tirelessly pursued by the author---such as Tatum's grandfather in his late 80's buying drugs on the street for an 82 y/o woman he met on Bingo night, and with wily granddad pretending that he is a confused old codger to avoid a drug bust by the police. This could be viewed by some readers as the author poking fun at the elderly who have cognitive loss. The sorry tale of Tatum's home life doesn't stop there. The grandfather is not only lucid but he is also selfish, self-serving, and uncaring about Tatum's property and his pets. There is the fish---why in the !@#$% would Tatum accept a tropical fish from his new boss in the first place (when he has no aquarium) ---and just bring it home and toss it in a bowl?
Why does FBI Agent Tatum HAVE a cat? He calls it "sociopathic", he doesn't want the cat to lie on the bed or to be close to him. Then this (mostly) passive uncaring for the pet pales in comparison to allowing his perverted grandfather to frankly mistreat the poor creature. Tatum is leaving for Chicago and expressly asks obviously reliable granddad to take care of things, "Freckle" mentioned specifically. The grandfather ("Marvin") responds "Why don't you take the cat to a shelter? Or, I don't know, dump it on the highway." A minute later Tatum is suggesting to Marvin that he might stop throwing shoes at the cat.
Later the reader is tortured with updates when Tatum talks with Marvin back in Virginia. We have to hear about what egregious activity he has inflicted upon the house, its furniture, and Freckles the cat. Tatum has to hear about the old man feeding the cat something other than cat food and Freckle vomiting. He even talks about pulling a gun on the cat. This attempt at humor with the granddad Marvin, the 80-something drug user and ladies man is simply deplorable. I would rather read about the 80-something year old man's penis (and of course we DO read about IT in addition to Tatum suggesting the old man might be afflicted with erectile dysfunction if he doesn't take his heart medication. The author has to throw in toward the end of the novel how Tatum walks into his home and spots an empty beer bottle on the bottom of the aquarium floor, and thinks to himself that the fish doesn't seem to mind so he will just leave it there!
I am fairly certain that the author is attempting to amuse his readers, but I cannot convey how I truly feel about the writer's approach to accomplish his goal. I am also an animal lover (and NO, not a vegetarian card-carrying member of PETA). I love pets of all kinds, and I happen to own cats that are spoiled rotten (plus we have a large aquarium with three beautiful goldfish). We owned dogs until about ten years ago. We do not permit hunting on our land, and when I point a gun it isn't in the direction of an animal. Frankly, even "joking" references to animal abuse make me want to quit reading an author's work.
In Amazon's "About Mike Omer" I read that "He also likes writing funny stuff", a sentence which chilled me to the bone. But l want to explore the "serious" part of this book.
A KILLER'S MIND is basically a book to introduce Zoe and sidekick Tatum to a host of new readers and in this installment to follow their exploits as they assist the Chicago PD to hunt a serial killer in their midst. The press has dubbed him the "Strangling Undertaker" (a moniker I find ridiculous, but then there is nothing absurd about the killer's victims and number of bodies piling up in the morgue).
There is a secondary storyline (subplot) that is doled out in the form of periodic flashbacks to 1997. This back story takes place nearly two decades earlier, when Zoe is living life as a 14-year old teenager in the small town of Maynard, Massachusetts. A sexual sadist is loose in her community and has raped and strangled three young women. I found it intriguing that the young Zoe was already gathering data on her suspect with referrals to a copy of Whoever Fights Monsters, by Robert K. Ressler. The reader suspects that something horrible happened to Zoe during this time in her life, based upon the tidbits of information that is parsed out as the primary plot moves along. This assumption is bolstered by her present-day nightmares full of creepy dialogue (issued by the rapist-killer?), and associated sleep deprivation. She has also been the recipient of a mysterious package in the mail which she "disposed of" in a file drawer full of similar envelopes. We later learn in the shifts between the time lines that the first "envelope" arrived when she was still a teenager in Massachusetts.
As a reader, I attempted to fairly grade the author on the effectiveness of his main plot, taking into consideration the impact of his secondary storyline. The subplot to me was equivalent to a land mine that was planted along the path for the reader to step on and then "explode" into different directions to the real path of the serial killer. Once Zoe's full back-story is known to the reader, then the above considerations can be fully explored and all questions satisfactorily answered.
Zoe behaves like a rookie when she "locks in" to the significance of victim number one, Susan Warner. Specifically, she clearly recognizes that in all probability the killer was acquainted with this particular victim. In CH 28 she and Tatum are interviewing a friend of the victim (Daniella) and they learn several pieces of information, the implications of which figuratively "jump off the page" (and I am not a profiler). I took notes about the different lines to pursue, i.e., someone related to clean-up, sewage (like a plumber), the storage facility, etc. This lead was critical when you consider that Zoe is simultaneously discounting geographic profiling because this killer is all over the map! By CH 46 Zoe is interviewing the fiancée of one of the killer's earlier victims that she has, impressively enough, unearthed. The killer is introduced to the reader on Page 221. I made my notes that I liked him for the murderer, and listed my reasons.
It is uncommon for me to deduce the identity of the killer that early on, and naturally I was disappointed in Zoe's abilities at this juncture. She did not pursue the leads that would have led to the killer's door. The main storyline or primary plot had already suffered a fatal blow at this point without factoring in the impact of the subplot on the novel as a whole. I should say the half of the book that attempts to be serious and isn't literally a joke.
The whole subplot thing was a big disappointment in all respects. Zoe was unfortunate enough to butt heads with a serial killer when she was young. That would have been a frightening experience with Glover's attempt at a break-in, and his admissions to her and her sister Andrea must have been chilling. It is also true that failure of her parents to believe her, and certainly for the police authorities to assign no merit to her allegations about Glover had to be a crushing blow to a young person's blossoming sense of self-worth and confidence. However, I was expecting a secret far more dark and dire in nature, such as a brutal rape perhaps, or a relative, even a dear friend being raped and killed. The envelopes could keep such emotional scars alive by intermittent "reminders" over the years from this sexual predatory, murderer.
But after the "big reveal" we know that was NOT the case. Therefore, I am at a loss to understand the devastating emotional paralysis that the "envelopes" caused Zoe to suffer in Chicago. Similarly, the serial killer was not caught in Maynard albeit he did have to "move". Would that circumstance cause sufficient motivation to mail a women "envelopes" for twenty years to remind her that he had been damn angry??? Maybe I have read far too much Lisa Gardner and too many Karin Slaughter novels, but this PG-Rated material is in my opinion just not sufficient to set up this 20-year mutual obsession between Zoe and Glover. By the way, if Glover wanted to rape and murder Zoe, why wait 19 years? Was he in Chicago for a serial killer convention and accidentally saw her face in the paper....??? I would say that the main storyline breaks apart when the effects of the back-story come to bear on our protagonist (since she "breaks apart" and forgets everything she knew about profiling). I had already correctly identified the killer, and wasn't about to get confused enough to think for a "New York Second" that Glover was the active serial killer in Chicago. However, the main story had already fallen flat before we even consider this serial killer in her past.
This is the worst novel I have read so far this year. I have amended my plan to read a book a month from the Kindle First Reads folder to maybe two (2) a year. But I must remind you that I am a true outlier here, though, that is if you believe the reviews.
The story was well written, and I loved the funnies he threw in. For example, his interactions with his grandfather. Those were hilarious! "Do you know what's in my lap? My penis! My penis is in my lap." Or Mancuso's 'bastard' fish.
Thankfully, I didn't see many mistakes and those that I did see were missing commas. No big deal.
I couldn't help but smile when I saw the two main characters in this story were living in Dale City, VA. That's where I grew up and met my husband!
If this is part of a series, I'm curious to know if the next book will have anything more regarding the Highway Serial Killings Initiative that Zoe was working with at the beginning of the story.
So, Tatum is sent to Chicago to see if he can help the PD there with the serial killings. He meets Martinez, heads back to Virginia to let his grandfather know he's going to be in Chicago for a while, then heads back to Chicago. Why wouldn't he have done that prior to leaving? What was the point of the back and forth?
Martinez, Zoe, and Tatum are talking after finding Lilly's body. It's stated what she was wearing when she was found and how she was killed. Martinez states "She was alive at nine thirty." Tatum says, "Unless it wasn't her on the phone." What would have even made them think that a possibility? I mean, they located her phone signal in that area, did they seriously think a different female had used Lilly's phone? Yet, they happen to find Lilly's body? That didn't make any sense.
In the beginning, Lilly's body is described as having blood all over it. Jeffrey takes note that her "...chest is a mess" because of all the blood (or so I assume). Yet, when they're talking later about her, it's stated that "There was blood all over her neck, but her shirt was mostly clean." Yes, she was already dead when he slit her throat, but she hadn't been dead long, so her blood was still flowing, hence the killer was drenched in her blood. So how would her shirt had been clean still?
Jeffrey kills his brother's fiance. So he killed her because he was scared she'd say something about his weirdness to his brother? I was confused about that part. I'm sure his brother would have already known he was a weirdo. The whole process of him killing her then going to animals, then back to women again, seemed questionable. If he'd been embalming animals, wouldn't his human embalming kills have been better?
Zoe realized that Glover being the serial killing was a dumb idea. Why? How? I mean, he was still sending her the ties, which could have easily been used to strangle the women and he knew he'd already killed.
Zoe has a glued wound on her shoulder and a stitched wound on her neck. When the hot water hits her, it's her shoulder that hurts. Critical thinking skills coming into play here. When thinking about stitches where the two sides of the skin aren't together/healed yet, and a sealed wound, I'd imagine the stitched one would be more painful. Just saying...
Why does Tatum call his grandfather by his first name?
Andrea has black hair, while Zoe has auburn. Again, just something questionable that stood out to me.
How much time had gone by when Lilly's body is found and when Jeffrey finds his "family?" The way the story is written made it sound like it was just a few days later, but "The woman was still alone, just like she had been a month ago." So, obviously, it's been more than a month.
Why were no charges brought against Dr. Foster, considering she lied, which resulted in the suicide of Manny?
I found it questionable (I like that word) that Glover happened to be in Chicago the same time as Zoe. Obviously, he'd been there for a bit since he'd killed a few women there years prior. Speaking of Glover, Harry Barry, in his article about Zoe, states that she was able to capture two serial killers. She got Jeffrey, but she never captured Glover.
I didn't understand why Tatum and Zoe had a hard time determining what Jeffrey used the women for?! Even if his POV wasn't in the story, knowing that a male was kidnapping, murdering, embalming and dressing up females, well it seems obvious. The fact that his embalming skills were improving with each female was further proof that he wanted to keep one/them for as long as possible. Since he couldn't have sex with them after being embalmed, keeping them as company was the only other option, at least in my mind.
Tatum and Zoe are talking about dolls. Zoe states that she had dolls when she was younger but didn't play with them. Tatum states that he played with Playmobil figures. I get the author wanted to give the readers/characters a hint as to the reasoning for the killer embalming the females, but the fact Tatum goes on to say that he "...remove[d] their hair and change[d] it around..." just seemed weird. Like it's one thing to say what kind of toy he played with, but to further state that he'd take the hair off...what would have been the point of that unless it was the author's hint.
How did Zoe ever think that Clifford could have been the killer? What about the fishing trip and the fact that his fiance was gone by the time he got home? That seemed to leave her and Tatum's minds for a good while before they thought of his brother.
"Clifford has an employee named Jeffrey who seemed to be really close to him. And he called him Cliff. That woman said his mother used to call him Cliff when he was a boy, so his brother probably calls him the same." I'm sure everyone probably calls him Cliff! Just seems strange that the author would have gone on about his nickname like that.
Prior to asking Clifford about his brother, Tatum and Zoe try to sneak a peek in one of the work vans. The doors are all locked though. Tatum ends up joining Zoe at the back of the van. Now it doesn't say whether the doors were open, which seemed unlikely considering Clifford was the only one in the shop (why would he have left the doors open). But Tatum ends up stating "No blood, no formaldehyde..." How did they know this though? Again, if the doors were open they would have been able to smell the formaldehyde, HAD it been spilled, and they might have seen blood had there been a good amount. But just glancing in doesn't seem like it would have told them much without having forensic people there testing the inside of the van. Of course, if the doors were closed, they wouldn't have known anything either.
When questioning Clifford the final time, Zoe states that "You said you went fishing with him several times two WEEKS ago. But on that night (the night his fiancee disappeared), he didn't join, did he?" Why in the world was she comparing their fishing trips from a few weeks prior, to years ago?
Jeffrey wants to start his new family. He forces his way into the house. Why didn't he lock the door behind him? Obviously, he didn't want anyone bothering them...
I get that Zoe wanted to go in place of the mother. Got it. She took off her shirt to show that she didn't have a gun. Yes, because she couldn't have just lifted it up. Jeffrey seems smart, so why didn't he think to have her turn around? Whatever. She then takes her skirt off. Why? She wants to see if he's attracted to her. "She didn't interest him." Really? That just seemed dumb there. I mean they already knew that he was sexually attracted to corpses. She then takes her bra off...again...why? The best part is that she doesn't put anything back on (yes, her blouse was bloody) but what about the bra? Or ask the woman for something? So she basically just stood there in just her underwear when the police showed up? And Tatum never commented about her basically be nude in front of him? Plus, him swapping the mother for her wouldn't have happened. Did the author forget that she'd been beaten? Was black and blue? Yeah, that wouldn't have interested the killer.
Lastly, in the end, Zoe thinks that it "...probably wasn't a good time to ask Mancuso for anything..." Why? Yes, her and Tatum weren't supposed to go back to Chicago, but they did catch the killer.
Top reviews from other countries
I have been disappointed in series sequels before too often to think I will bother here and in any case this book didn't whet my appetite in that direction.
Years later a well known Forensic Phsychologist, Zoe Bentley is involved in another serial rapist Miller case.