THE KILLING SEASON
My name is not Alison Cross. Well, it is. But as far as first lines go, telling your reader that your name is not Carter Blake will guarantee to hook their interest 100% from the outset! I’m hoping that it works for book reviews too!
The Killing Season, the first in the series featuring Carter Blake, was first published in 2014. I only discovered it at Bute Noir this year. There are now four books in the series, so I have a lot of catching up to do.
This is also the first novel by Mason Cross and it is a confident foray into the world of American Noir. Not bad going for a guy from Glasgow!
So, what’s the story? Here’s the blurb from Mason’s website:
“When ex-Marine Corps Scout Sniper and infamous serial killer Caleb Wardell breaks out from Death Row, logic suggests he will go to ground. But Wardell has never been one to follow rules. He starts to cut a bloody swathe across America, picking up where he left off five years ago.
“The FBI are ordered to capture Wardell by any means necessary. With election day approaching, and hunting a skilled serial killer trained in the arts of evasion, they are forced to call in secretive manhunter, Carter Blake – a man with certain specialised talents and a shadowy past. A past that involves Caleb Wardell…
“But when the manhunt quickly spirals out of control amidst a media and public frenzy, Blake finds himself sidelined from the case. Aided only by Special Agent Elaine Banner, and racked by guilt, Carter knows that he must use all of his expertise if he is to track down the psychopathic killer before it is too late… “
The story takes place over six days and this directly affects the structure of the novel – six days, six sections in the book. The chapters within each section are numbered as you would expect, but also allocated a time of day. Chapters can be a few pages or a single page and by the time we get to ‘Day 6’ this idea of having the time always at the forefront of your thoughts really adds to the rising sense of urgency in the book.
The story is told from three points of view – Carter Blake’s, Agent Banner’s and the killer’s, Caleb Wardell.
The only person speaking in the first person is Carter Blake and although we are not given many details about his life, he comes across as a likeable guy, but who clearly has some ghosts in his past that are coming back to haunt him. I can’t wait to find out which other ghosts come back from his past to haunt him as the Mason Cross series unfolds.
I liked the character of Elaine Banner a great deal – a divorced mother of one balancing the demands of a challenging FBI career with the responsibilities and joys of motherhood. Ambitious and able in her job, she feels that she is failing at parenting. Crucially, the ‘working mother guilt’ trope is not just some random female characterisation trait that Mason has thrown into the mix to make her relatable, as we find out as the book progresses.
There’s a growing sexual chemistry between Blake and Banner (don’t worry, your granny will be able to read this book without too many blushes!) and I particularly liked the fact that Banner doesn’t morph from ambitious career woman into someone who thinks Blake might be a good bet to play happy families, just because they have sex. I am looking forward to finding out whether Mason has Blake teaming up with more women than men in other books and what the dynamics of those relationships are.
Killer Caleb Wardell is a great character too: I feared for the life of every person that crossed his path! He’s clever, calculating and utterly devoid of compassion so there is no stage in the book where your sympathies waver, even for a moment; you are always on the side of Blake and Banner.
The book rattles along at a fair old pace, covering the six day period after Wardell escapes. Cross’s writing is lean (not for him a meaningless 20 line description of a train thundering through the Italian countryside. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Dan Brown) but there are brush-strokes and colour enough to let you hurtle through the pages at the same break-neck speed as the FBI who are desperate to catch their man.
And when Blake and Banner find themselves within Wardell’s sights …. the hunters become the hunted!
The Killing Season is really enjoyable and a quick book to read. It has characters that you care about, tons of action (and an ever-rising body count!) taking place in a short time frame. It has a sense of urgency that will keep you reading well-past your bed time and a nice little twist to wrong foot you near the end to ramp up your anxiety.
I loved it.
So, now it’s your turn, come on over to Bute Noir’s facebook page and settle down with a coffee and tell everyone what YOU think of the book!