It was only as I thought about writing about Linda Prather's Newest and maybe her best so far...at least for me... was the old debate about Nature Vs. Nurture... Yesterday, I mentioned that one of my nephews had Asperger's Syndrome which is a form of Autism...a growing concern for parents in America... I also mentioned that he was well-loved, grew up with close family's care and joy in his life... Was it his nurturing family who influenced his life so that his limitations were to disappear?
This book gives you time and thought-provoking questions about how sociopaths or psychopaths are "born..." For me, the two male main characters--A FBI Special Agent and a Serial Killer... who, in the book begin both a board chess game, and a deadly chess game in reality... where replicas of people were carved and became actual pieces to play on the chess board... is an excellent study of the NVsN issue.
Simon walked through the empty rooms of the run-down house, oblivious to the dust his shoes kicked up. The years had not been kind. Flowered wallpaper hung in strips down the living room wall. The pink of the baby’s room had faded, and the once-white trim was a dusty brown.
Rock-a-bye, baby… *
He clapped his hands over his ears to shut out the sound. “It wasn’t my fault. I told him Adam could have saved her.” He trudged back to the living room window, the image as clear as it had been twenty-seven years ago—the screams, the blood on his hands highlighted by a sliver of light from the full moon. He raised his hands and stared at the stains no amount of soap and water could wash off. He was damned.
“I have to be cleansed.”
Rage flowed through his blood. He’d begged them to send Adam, pleaded with them as he’d bared his soul of his innermost secrets. It wasn’t his fault so many sinners in the world pretended to be good, honest people. He’d known as soon as he’d seen them and the blood had appeared on his palms that they had to die. They had been chosen. He opened the front door then stepped into the balmy night air. It would be over soon. Adam would come home, and he could be cleansed. His thoughts turned to the package that would be delivered in the morning. Adam would understand. Together they would finish the game. Together they would fulfill their destiny.
My name is Adam Blackstone. My badge is stamped Special Agent. To be honest, I was not quite sure what agency it was from. It opened doors for me that would otherwise be closed, and that was all that really mattered. The agency introduced me to local departments as a profiler. I considered myself a demon hunter—not demons in the biblical sense, but the two-legged monsters that walked among us and killed for pleasure or profit, the ones we called serial killers.
The agency had deemed I needed a bodyguard, and I was currently waiting for the seventh candidate. Three had decided they didn’t want the job prior to the end of the interview, and three I had dismissed before the interview had started. The last thing I needed was a mini-skirted, stiletto-heeled, cleavage-showing female by my side.
The current candidate was two hours late—not the best recommendation if she truly wanted the job. I watched from the upstairs landing as she parked her ancient blue Fiat in the driveway. Unlike the other candidates, she didn’t immediately grab a briefcase filled with her training accolades and rush toward the house. Instead, she climbed out slowly, lit a cigarette, and stood surveying the estate grounds. I let my gaze travel from the top of her head to the tips of her tennis shoes. She hadn’t bothered to dress for the interview. A lightweight cotton blouse was tucked into well-fitted, faded jeans. Her holster lay low on her hips, and her badge gleamed in the late-afternoon sun.
Her finely arched brows knitted as she turned her gaze on the hundred-year-old renovated home. She wasn’t at all impressed and, instead, appeared to be mentally ticking off the pros and cons of guarding the house and grounds. She took a final draw off the cigarette, stomped it out, and picked it up. She placed the butt in a plastic baggie before reaching inside the vehicle and retrieving a jacket.
As she headed up the walk, I turned from the window and made my way to the downstairs conference room to await her announcement.
“A Miss Samantha Prescott to see you, sir.”
“Thank you, James. You can send her in. This shouldn’t take long.”
The main female character, Samantha (Sam) Prescott was not what you think of as an FBI agent... she had no concern for her appearance, was late for the interview, and even could be seen smoking a cigarette before she came to the door, even though two hours late. Further, she had all the vices--drinking, smoking, drugs sometimes, which were quite opposite to Blackstone who led a quiet life, with scheduled meals and a butler and housekeeper to handle all issues for him. He was thinking she would be an impossible fit, yet he hired her--she had seen what he was working on and actually provided competent input for the case!
I began to see Sam as a very concerned woman. Justice for her was most important, and she aggressively acted on behalf of those who needed her help to obtain it... But it was the pair of agents who, together, made this book, which actually increased my reading speed from the norm...watching and seeing the two interact. Prather was so persuasive in character development that readers were caught in their anxiety, their fear, and their need to avenge those who had already been murdered and strive to keep the serial killer off the streets by one way or the other... Prescott had actually been reassigned to another agency. Her job was to protect, or possibly, kill the FBI Agent, Adam Blackstone if he proved to be the serial killer that was now being hunted!
In general, Sam didn't have much patience with her, supposed peer, Blackstone. He was obviously so rich he really didn't need to work, and, yet, he was able to think through what the serial killer might be doing and thinking. Intrigued was not even a beginning definition for what Sam was to learn... Bluntly, that Blackstone had been diagnosed as a psychopath...
And it was very easy for him to emotionally connect with the man who was killing and, who, obviously, was interested in "playing" the game with Blackstone himself...
Surprisingly, to both Sam...and readers... Blackstone was not embarrassed to explain his personal history to Prescott. In fact, he really needed to, to be able to work with her on the case! Because, soon, it became very clear that it was Agent Blackstone's history which was now being used as a basis upon which those to be killed were selected.
Given the proliferation of both fictional and non-fiction television programs spotlighting serial killers, the reason for those diagnosed as sociopaths or psychopaths, has been almost avidly explored, wanting to know...WHY?
Is it a function of genetic creation or is it how a child is nurtured? One of the things that the agents pinpointed quickly was that all or most of the victims had Biblical names. Were they being judged and put to death? But how could the children who were killed be judged as guilty of anything? And slowly, Blackstone and readers discover that Simon, who is the serial killer, knows Adam...and so much more about what had happened many years ago, in the local town where they both lived and in the house where once Adam lived.
Could Adam continue to work on a case with which he was so intimately involved? Or, even, as Sam sometimes feared, was Adam actually the serial killer, investigating the case on his own terms and, now, with her help!
By the time the book ends, I believe Prather has given readers an answer to the nature versus nurture debate... I agreed... but were all those diagnosed born into the same mold? There seems to be a potential plan for further books with this pair, working in their own agency... I would certainly applaud that decision if Prather decides to move these two characters further!
In any event, fans or new readers, I believe, will be completely blown away with this latest novel by Linda S. Prather. It is breaking the mold of any other serial killer books I've read or know of, by having a psychopath seek out another psychopath... Prather talks about needing to challenge herself! Well, she's done it in spades this time and all readers, me among them, will want to watch as Adam moves forward under the influence of his new partner Sam Prescott!
Brilliantly conceived and executed. A fast-paced, page-turner that you won't be able to stop reading until the very end! Don't miss this one!