Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

367 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer


Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.

As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?


I got this book from the library because it came recommended, and I have to admit I had high expectations when I started reading. I’m sorry to say that now that I’ve finished the story, I’m not as impressed as I’d hoped to be. While this wasn’t a bad book or story, it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the blurb appeared to suggest.

For starters, the story is very heavy on science, especially in the opening chapters. And while I understand that Theo’s background and unique perspective needed to be explained, there was so much in those early chapters that went straight over my head, that the urge to skim was strong from the start.

Like I said, I did like the blurb and by extension, the premise of the book. It’s rather chilling but probably true that there are far more serial killers out there than we’re aware of. Unless patterns are recognized and the killers caught, we may be blissfully unaware that such a monster is operating in our vicinity. But, for me, the author pushed this premise so far. Because while I’m more than happy to accept that law enforcement might miss similar murders/disappearances as long as they are happening in different jurisdiction or with very long intervals between two cases, I refuse to believe they’d stubbornly continue to accept the possible truth when presented with overwhelming evidence that something sinister might be going on.

True, this thriller is not unique in this premise. Many books put an innocent protagonist up against ignorant law-enforcers and there is no doubt that such a storyline can lead to an engrossing read. However, in this book I feel the author pushed the idea well beyond credibility.

It didn’t help that I couldn’t really connect with Theo—although he did intrigue me— or with any of the other characters in this book. I never lost myself in the story but always felt like an outsider, observing from the outside. And for me, the joy of thrillers lies in being so engrossed in the developing story that I worry about the main characters to the point where I’m torn between needing to know what happens next and being afraid to turn to the next page. Not once did I get that feeling while reading this book.

My final regret about this book is that it was written in the first person, present tense, which resulted in it ending on what can only be described as a cliffhanger. I. Do. Not. Like. Cliffhangers.

But, having said all of that, there is no denying that this stories premise is very interesting and that there were more than a few scenes I did thoroughly enjoy. So while I can’t whole-heartedly recommend this book, I wouldn’t warn people away either. In fact, I may well end up the next book in this series, just to satisfy my curiosity and see whether or not those issues persist. Because one thing is for sure, Andrew Mayne knows how to write well and has created a thoroughly intriguing character in Theo Cray.

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