Saturday, January 4, 2014

Body Finder Meets Criminal Minds

Nothing is more terrifying than a serial killer hunting in your back yard. Well, maybe a horde of zombies, but one is more likely than the other. In Jennifer Lynn Barnes' first book of a new series, The Naturals, she explores the desperation of the FBI to catch these brutal hunters, even if it means she has to enlist the help of some kids.

Cassie knows her grandmother loves her, but after her fake-psychic mother was murdered and Cassie was the one to stumble upon the crime scene, living with her grandmother has always left her feeling like an outsider. When she is approached by a boy sent by the FBI to consider entering a special program of other Naturals, she assumes they are just messing with her. But the offer is real. There is a special group of kids who are Natural profilers, genius statisticians, and human lie detectors who can swing the result of any investigation. They aren't allowed into the field, but the agents house them in an old mansion and ask them to review cold cases in the hopes of solving previously unsolvable crimes.

Michael brings her around to meet the other kids, but while he is welcoming, the others aren't exactly interested in her presence. They all live in a house with pictures of serial killers on the walls, but that isn't even the strangest thing about the place. Liv can read lies and Sloane is like Rain Man (and a klepto). But mysterious Dean is the unreadable member of the team. The agents want to ease Cassie into the process, but when a serial killer starts hunting in the middle of the city, they get desperate. The kids aren't willing to stay on the sidelines, though, and their meddling gets them, Cassie in particular, the attention of the one person they don't want: the serial killer.

The Naturals was my first experience with Barnes, and I have to say it was definitely a good one! The story was a nice mix of slightly paranormal (the kids' "natural talents" feel a little like special abilities) and a crime mystery. The serial killer is a pretty creepy twist with special short chapters between Cassie's chapters where you get inside the killer's head. Creeptastic! Barnes did a good job of building enough suspense that you couldn't put the story down, and better yet, it seems we will have a sequel to look forward to. The one aspect of the story I struggled with was the boys. Michael and Dean are supposed to be the Cassie Love Triangle, but neither really appealed to me. I was more interested in quirky Liv and Sloane than I was the boys, which made it tough to be too invested in the small amount of romance in the story. But Dean has a promising back story that could get interesting.

The story can be kind of gruesome at times. Basically, if you would let a kid watch Criminal Minds, they could read this book about these serial killers. The house the kids live in is a little morbid, but it adds to the creep factor of the whole place. The story was fast-paced and incredibly interesting, so it would be good for any reader interested in mysteries or crime writing. I am looking forward to the next story  to see what happens to all the Naturals!

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