A freak accident in rural Wyoming leads the Sheriff’s Department to arrest a man for a possible double homicide, but further investigations suggest a much more horrifying discovery – a serial killer who has been kidnapping, torturing and mutilating victims all over the United States for at least twenty-five years. The suspect claims he is a pawn in a huge labyrinth of lies and deception – can he be believed?
The case is immediately handed over to the FBI, but this time they’re forced to ask for outside help. Ex-criminal behaviour psychologist and lead Detective with the Ultra Violent Crime Unit of the LAPD, Robert Hunter, is asked to run a series of interviews with the apprehended man. These interviews begin to reveal terrifying secrets that no one could’ve foreseen, including the real identity of a killer so elusive that no one, not even the FBI, had any idea he existed … until now.
This is the sixth outing for LAPD detective Robert Hunter and as regular visitors to this blog know, one that I have a particular affection for, having previously reviewed The Death Sculptor , The Hunter and One By One , and having read all the books in the series to date. I can confidently say that after the slight disappointment of One By One, Carter is back with a bang and with An Evil Mind there are shocks aplenty in store for the reader.
An Evil Mind is cited by the publisher as drawing most closely on individuals and murder cases encountered in Carter’s former career as a criminal psychologist. What is endlessly appealing about Carter’s writing is the authentic voice that permeates the books from this first hand experience, and I am an ardent fan of crime books written by those with a genuine knowledge and experience in the fields of criminal psychology and law enforcement. I concede that in normal authorial research there is a sense of reality brought the plots and premises created, but certainly in this book, the reader is hit even harder by the sheer malevolence of the main antagonist as it so grounded in Carter’s one to one experience. Combined with the strength of the narrative, and the oh- so teasing mini-cliffhangers, that he inserts at the end of nearly every chapter, An Evil Mind does metaphorically grab you by the throat from the outset, and spirals the reader into a miasma of violence and depravity from start to finish.
From the very start, the reader is absolutely shaken and stirred by the events that follow. For my money, Carter has written one of the finest opening chapters that I have read in terms of shock value. The transition from languid breakfast time in an all American diner to the impact (literally) of a freak occurrence that heralds a shocking opening to the book, is beautifully played out. I will only hint that not all people keep a spare tyre and tools in the trunk of their car! As the owner of said car, Lucien Folter, cannot help attract the attentions of local law enforcement, but on his arrest, says that he will only speak with his former friend and detective, Robert Hunter, and so the game is afoot. What follows is a titanic mental battle between the evil, clever and highly manipulative Folter, and Hunter, a man incredibly pre-disposed to navigate and decipher the actions and motivations of some of the most disturbed individuals with his innate intuition in relation to the darkest human psyches. As quickly as Hunter appears to break down the twisted actions of Folter, in a series of claustrophobic encounters with fascinating and entertaining verbal sparring, Folter begins to resemble an evil onion, with layers of perversity and wickedness that are revealed piece by piece. Folter has prepared a whole series of unique and nasty surprises for both Hunter and the FBI team, that Carter unleashes with a superb sense of pace and timing, so much so that as each chapter ends only the strongest reader will resist the temptation to stay firmly rooted to the spot to continue reading. (I couldn’t- and read this pretty much in one sitting). With reference to the ‘nasty surprises’ it is gratifying to see that Carter again pulls no punches in terms of the visual resonance of some of these images. Hence, I will reissue my standard warning that this book is not for the faint hearted or the easily spooked. Personally, I loved the ‘squirm’ factor of the more macabre elements of this plot, that are visceral, creepy and bring you up with a jolt. Beware of chest freezers as well…
Despite the lack of Hunter’s normal partner in crime Detective Garcia, who always proves a useful and humorous foil to the pensive and slightly tormented, but charming Hunter, Carter forms an effective circle of cohorts for him in this. The interaction between Hunter and the FBI team, in particular, the feisty agent, Courtney Taylor, more than compensates for the lack of Garcia, and Taylor definitely added a different frisson to the narrative, which lightened the overall darkness of the plot. As the book rattles towards an incredibly tense, violent and exciting ending, the torment that Folter projects on Hunter and the team is nerve shredding and simply brilliant. I liked this book very much, providing as it does, not only a tense and disturbing thriller, but in its perfect placing of brutal shocks reveals itself as a violent flight of fancy, that entertains throughout.
Born in Brazil of Italian origin, Chris Carter studied psychology and criminal behaviour at the University of Michigan. As a member of the Michigan State District Attorney’s Criminal Psychology team, he interviewed and studied many criminals, including serial and multiple homicide offenders with life imprisonment convictions. http://www.chriscarterbooks.com
Visit Book Addict Shaun at here for another review of An Evil Mind and an interview with Chris Carter.
(With thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC)