Title: Killer Instinct
Series: The Naturals, #2
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Length: 375 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library
Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.
But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?
I always have low expectations for the second book in a series, because it’s hard to follow the tension of a first book (with the establishment of characters, dynamics, overarching plot, and world building). But in this case, that was unfounded. Barnes has created a story just as intense, possibly even more so, with Killer Instinct.
Cassie is still processing what went down in the first book (no spoilers, I promise). Actually, all of The Naturals are- it starts some time after the events of the first book, but the dynamic is basically where we left it: Cassie is still emotionally involved in every case despite herself, Michael is trying to be a better guy with marginal success, Dean is withdrawn but showing signs of trust, Lia is still snarky (played by Summer Bishel in my head, even though I know she’s an Asian-American character), and then there’s socially weird Sloane. They’re bonding more as a team, finally. They’re tied together by tragedy.
But then the dynamics shift- a new FBI agent enters, the Director makes a power play, and a new serial killer appears. I truly don’t want to give anything away, because although I guessed one aspect of the mystery (thanks to the author’s clues), the whodunit actually did surprise me. But suffice to say, the subtle group dynamic and character development was even better in this book than the first book. Knife-edge tension, guys. And, of course, the characters make a few bad judgement calls and chaos ensues.
I was really happy with the mystery, the pacing, the character development, and even the love triangle- which is one of the best executions of a love triangle I’ve seen in YA. I recommend it, but read the first book next. And, like me, you’ll want to have the third book queued up to dive into.