Tag Archives: serial killers

Pretty Wicked

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I’ve been in terrible reading slump combined with a post-Thanksgiving food coma (and pure unadulterated laziness) since I finished Esperanza Rising, and have DNF’d 4 or 5 books. But then I picked up this one, and everything changed. Pretty Wicked is a perfect horror read for Hallowe’en, but you better have a strong stomach.

Ryann is 15 years old and living in the small town of Dungrave, Colorado. She is a straight A student, a top cheerleader, blond, pretty, and popular. Her father is a police officer. She is also a sociopath and a serial killer. She has spent all her free time since she was about 8 years old planning the perfect murder. And now it is finally time. And what a rush.

But she can’t stop at one. Because Ryann wants to be one of The Greats. She wants to be one of those killers of whom people speak with gruesome relish and reverent hushed tones. She wants to be one of the ones that never gets caught and leaves a legacy of fear and terror. She loves to hear people talk about what she has done, although she wishes they could know who is responsible.

Can the perfect 15 year old pull off the perfect crime spree?

The characters in this novel are unusual, to say the least.

The vast majority of the book is told from Ryann’s point of view. But being inside her mind is both terrifying and fascinating, and it actually feels wrong at times to be in her head and be unable to stop her actions. The psychology behind the acts is mind-bogglingly addictive to read about, the thought process is abhorrent, but reading this book is somewhat akin to driving slowly past a car wreck on the highway. It was impossible to put down, even as the sane part of my brain was telling me to stop.

Ryann is the perfect daughter and the perfect friend. Popular and friendly, but truly remote and a loner. She keeps her distance, both physically and mentally, from everyone, but no one really sees it. She works hard to make her parents proud, and loves them, but also secretly looks down on them. Her mother is a diner waitress, and her father doesn’t know he has a killer living in his house. Ryann believes that she is smarter than everyone.

The surrounding characters are as well developed and psychologically intense as Ryann. Best friend Bao-yu has her own quirks and excesses and is the perfect foil for Ryann. “B” is a gamer and spends hours online with a like-minded group, giving Ryann the chance to be the social and popular one in their relationship, and control their times together. Lucas and Asad both lead the reader on a bit of a wild-goose chase as the story develops and Ryann starts to feel the net closing around her.

Dad is a perfectionist  – she gets 97 on an exam, and he asks what happened to the other 3.  It is subtle yet profound pressure to be perfect, and Ryann has a deep desire to best her father. He, the well-respected cop, the solver of crimes, has a daughter committing the most heinous of murders right beneath his nose, and he has no idea.

The POV jumps just a couple of times, from Ryann to Detective Estevez. It was jarring, but good. Estevez is a textbook cop, toeing the line and lacking in humour. But he can see what Ryann’s dad doesn’t, the lack of soul in Ryann’s eyes, the ego that longs to be recognized, the horror that lies beneath.

And Officer Knox. I did NOT see that coming.

Author Kelly Charron places the reader right in the mind of a twisted teenager and explores the psychology underlying her actions. Was Ryann born that way, or did something happen to trigger the behaviour? She doesn’t come from a broken home or tough circumstances, she isn’t abused. She has a good upbringing, is an A student, head cheerleader, well-liked, familiar, and normal. But she is pure evil.

She is a fabulous villain. Perfectly written.

Obviously, the reader knows who the killer is right from the start. But there are twists and turns to the investigation right up until the end. Will she be caught, or will she be one of The Greats and get away with everything? The second half of the book is extremely intense and suspenseful; as Ryann starts to make mistakes and struggles to correct them I found myself unwillingly rooting for her. And I’m not sure why. She is without emotion or empathy, she takes pleasure in pain, and yet I held my breath every time she was interviewed or evidence was discovered.

This is a psychological thriller with unexpected moments of dark comedy. It has extremely graphic and violent content, and is probably more appropriate for the upper end of the YA range. And any adult who doesn’t mind sleeping with the lights on.

Pretty Wicked was published September 30th, 2016 by Dark Arts Publishing.

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The Naturals (series)

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This two book series from Jennifer Lynn Barnes left me wanting a three book series. More, please. More murder and serial killers and plot-twists and FBI agents and sociopaths and suspense and teenage crime-solving phenoms. Please. And throw in just a little bit of romance for those who need it in their YA fiction.

17 year old Cassie has always been different.  Raised by her “psychic” mother until she was 12,  she has the natural ability to read and profile people, something that was helpful to her mother’s career.  After her mother is murdered, Cassie is sent to live with her extended Italian family, where she feels like she never quite fits. And then the FBI comes calling.

Cassie is recruited to become a Natural – one of a team of five teens all with preternatural abilities to profile, detect lies, read emotion or recall and decipher detail.  They consult on FBI cold cases, looking for clues that the agents may have missed. They see things others don’t, and in the process save lives and find killers. And then an open case hits close to home for Cassie. Her involvement puts her team at risk.

So.  Five teenagers – Cassie, Lia, Sloane, Michael and Dean – all with unusal abilities, dark pasts and conflicting personalities, living together in one house. Drama? What drama? I loved it. Teen angst and joy and selfishness and moodiness and disregard for rules times five. Barnes writes good teens, and develops her characters believably;  I was equal parts intrigued and irritated with them at all times.

I don’t usually like a love triangle, they are kind of overdone, yes?  But in this case, I could tolerate it.  So many times, the third person is just thrown in for the sake of it. This time, it worked. Who was the third?

The plot and the pacing are excellent; the action moves well. The FBI profiling was incredibly interesting (I’ve always been fascinated by it), and the Agents that dealt with the teens all had distinct personalities and worked well in the story. The plot twists were unexpected, the finale fantastic!

Barnes did not answer everything neatly in the first novel. It worked. There were still questions for the second book to address. How did the Naturals become what they are? Why are they special, and where do they come from? Which people or events from their pasts are creeping into and affecting the present?

Totally appropriate for all teens and the budding FBI agent. Easy to read, not overly gory, but just enough detail to intrigue. A fun page-turner that will keep you guessing.

The Naturals is published by Disney-Hyperion.