Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This novel creates what could best be described as a young adult version of the hit show Criminal Minds. As the first book in what will hopefully be a series, it not only sets the stage for all of the characters, but throws them into a captivating murder mystery that tests all of their talents.

Cassie has the ability to profile people - she can spend a few minutes with a person and figure out their inner workings. While she doesn't advertize her abilities, it catches the attention of people that can benefit from what she does - the FBI. Special Agent Briggs runs a special group of "agents" who are teens with special abilities like Cassie known as the "Naturals." Michael and Lia are good at reading emotions with Lia specializing in lies. Sloane knows numbers and statistics while Dean is a profiler like Cassie. Together they go through cold cases, hoping to pick up things the FBI missed. While Cassie brought into the group and learning her way, Briggs and another agent, Locke, pick up an active serial killer case. It's a tough one that has them stumped, which peaks the interest of the teens who think they can help. As Cassie looks over the current case, she is eerily reminded of her mother's murder, which she is convinced is connected to this murderer. The killer then starts targeting Cassie. Can she help solve this mystery or will she become the killer's next victim?

Since this is what I assume to be the beginning of a series, a good portion of the book sets up the backgrounds of the characters and gets Cassie acquainted with the program. In no way does this slow the story down because everyone is interesting. Of course there is also the love triangle between Cassie, Michael, and Dean - all of whom have complicated histories that make them complex characters. In terms of the mystery, it is intriguing how the characters get into the mind of the UNSUB to figure out who did it. A nice twist at the end heightens the drama, creating a captivating story. This book, though, is as much about the characters as it is the mystery. It's a quick read that pulls you in and makes you not want to put it down.

This is an enjoyable book that is very character driven, but still a great mystery. I look forward to the next case.

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