Series: Killer Instinct

Into the Night by Cynthia Eden

Into the Night by Cynthia EdenInto the Night by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #3
Published by Harlequin Books on December 26th 2017
Pages: 384
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three-stars

Lives will be ravaged as two FBI agents confront a mastermind serial murderer in New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden’s new Killer Instinct novel

Sheltered in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains is the suspect who’s summoned FBI agent Macey Night’s fears to the surface. Every day that the “Profiler,” a vigilante serial killer, escapes justice is another day she’s reminded of what it is to be a ruthless predator’s prey. Capturing him is a craving deeper than anything she’s felt in a long time. But Agent Bowen Murphy, equal parts sexy and volatile, seems hell-bent on changing that. Working together—needing, living, and breathing each other—they’re entwined to distraction.

Bowen’s used to operating on impulse: act, don’t feel. Now Macey and the controlled terror behind her beautiful eyes has him rethinking everything, including his rule to never get close to a colleague. He’s willing to fight for a future with Macey, but the consequences of love could be deadly.

I sometimes feel for authors who love writing murder mysteries, since these perennially suffer from the inability to hold their readers’ interest, particularly when the cases meld into one another and they stop standing out, even with excellent writing and atmosphere-creation. Throw some romantic suspense in it and the whole story becomes electrified, but that problem of keeping things fresh remains.

Cynthia Eden’s ‘Killer Instinct’ series is strange one that keeps going under the radar for me, though it really deserves more than a second look. Perhaps this is a strange observation but I think for most of the books in this series, the characters and plots tended to blur into an interchangeable ball of mystery, murder and gore for me.

‘Into the Night’ did feel a tad bit too similar to the point where I couldn’t really distinguish each protagonist from another because all of them had their own secrets, worked for the FBI and turned dirty-talking alphas or wanting, sex-starved women in bed. Yet I did like Bowen and Macey, as I did the other couples (though they weren’t memorable enough to leave their own indelible stamp on me) so that was some conflict for me right there as a RS addict.

Thankfully Eden does deliver her twists, knowing full well that a murder mystery isn’t just a straight path leading to the whodunnit moment and that kept me entertained throughout, as did the surprisingly fast switch of relationship between Bowen and Macey. The mystery branches out into something more complex as the story goes on and with a few cases of the hunter getting hunted type of revelations, I got more and more invested as the pages kept turning. There are some parts where disbelief must clearly be suspended—it did get loopy when it was revealed—but by and large, there were hints that made it not too surprising at the end.

‘Into the Night’ isn’t a bad read and I’m going to say this up front. But it’s fatigue that’s setting in on my part, and I’m going with the been there, done that and read that line because it’s true. Like someone with a need of another, bigger and craftier fix, I think I’m jaded when it comes to Eden’s brand of RS (especially the serial killer cases because I’ve read so many of Eden’s books) unless there’s something revolutionary in the works to come.

three-stars

Before the Dawn by Cynthia Eden

Before the Dawn by Cynthia EdenBefore the Dawn by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #2
Published by Harlequin Books on July 25th 2017
Pages: 371
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three-stars

Ex-SEAL Tucker Frost knows that the world is full of evil. He saw it in the face of his own brother, Mason Frost, a cold, methodical, sadistic killer. A killer Tucker put down with his own hands in order to save Mason's final victim—Dawn Alexander, the only girl who got away from the infamous "Iceman."
It's Tucker's up close and personal experience with evil that's made him perfect for Samantha Dark's experimental profiling division in the FBI. Samantha wants agents who have personal ties with killers, who have unique insights into the minds of monsters. And when women start turning up murdered with the same MO used by the Iceman, Tucker is sent back to Louisiana to investigate.
The last person he expects to see is his ex-lover, Dawn. Ten full years have passed since the night that Tucker faced down his brother…and since he last saw Dawn. But the dark need still burns just as hot between Tucker and Dawn. As they grapple with a desire that never died, they must also face the shared shadow from their pasts. Both Tucker and Dawn have the same question—has Mason Frost come back from the dead to hunt again? And this time, will he succeed in killing the victim who got away?

‘Before the Dawn’ is a bit more predictable than Cynthia Eden’s first book in her Killer Instinct series, with a copycat serial killer (with a specific MO) that is typically a trusted ally. But it’s also a second-chance story, where a couple separates for more traumatic reasons than usual—in this case, where neither really didn’t seem to be in a good place to be together—only to be brought back together when a copycat killer emerges.

Romantic suspense—of the thriller kind—and I have a certain relationship: the story unravels as the clues go out while I do the guessing whodunnit game. It’s always fun and entertaining and the stranger and more shocking the twists, the more memorable it is for me. Despite this, the predictability factor, or at least how far into the book I get before guessing who the perpetrator really is, isn’t the only criterion for my rating and/or review of the book. In this case, I had my suspicions but Eden does throw out red herrings that do cause you to doubt your own conclusions.

What frustrated me however, was the push-pull that always comes when both Dawn and Tucker try to rationalise their own feelings away from each other and that sex came rather inconveniently before several truths were brought to light. Such delay tactics simply added to the layer of unrevealed secrets that tainted the relationship before when all they had to do was to sit down and put things out in the open before letting more bodily needs come into play.

‘Before the Dawn’ is an absorbing read nonetheless, even if Eden’s heroes and heroines in all her series do inevitably meld together, bound by the similarities in their tortured backgrounds and hidden pasts. And this probably makes this book less of a standout than it really is because it’s not easy to differentiate between her plots and characters after a while. I’d love to continue this series however, as much as I’d love to have Eden’s protagonists who are somehow more memorably unique in their own ways.

three-stars

After the Dark by Cynthia Eden

After the Dark by Cynthia EdenAfter the Dark by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #1
Published by Harlequin Books on March 28th 2017
Pages: 384
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four-stars

Former FBI agent Samantha Dark was one of the most respected profilers in the bureau, an expert on the twisted minds and dark hearts of the most depraved criminals. But when her own former lover turned out to be the serial killer she was hunting, Samantha's career was destroyed. Blamed for the FBI's failure on the complex case, Samantha fled Washington, DC, for the quiet anonymity of Alabama.

Now an all-too-familiar killer is hunting once again. She can catch the sadistic assassin, but that means putting her trust in her former partner, Blake Gamble. Ex-military, Blake is tough, protective, precise. With her entire life on the brink, she knows he wants her back in the FBI and possibly more.

But someone else wants her, too. A threat is waiting in the dark, a killer who has set his sights on the ultimate trophy victim: Samantha.

The stylistic hallmarks of Cynthia Eden never show up more clearly than in her romantic suspense thrillers: the unapologetically tense atmosphere, the brutality of the murders, the psychopathic killer(s) and the characters with their own baggage that hinder them from moving on properly. If it all sounds somewhat repetitive, it’s because it is to an extent, but Eden manages to make every crime story fresh despite the similarities of her the tortured heroines and alpha heroes who tend to populate the pages of these thrillers. In fact, I thought very much about the LOST series as I went through this book and saw how much this is already mirroring it.

But from the moment I read “The Gathering Dusk”, I was eager to see how Samantha’s and Blake’s very obvious chemistry was going to combust and “After the Dark” didn’t disappoint as it kicked the drama into high gear with betrayal, a relentless body count and mind-bending psychoanalysis. There’s always the hunter and the hunted, but Eden complicated this predatory relationship and I liked how this became a game of wits as it showed how personal the relationship really was between Samantha and Latham—with Blake as the unusual third party who got in the way with his steady and admirable straight shooting behaviour. There’s no straightforward whodunnit moment like most crime books, leaving you with the feeling that the game could be won either way—with fate playing a huge hand in it.

It all makes for good storytelling, really. I liked how the climax played out (the resolution was sort of expected) but most of all, I liked how this series is keeping me excited for the next book to come.

four-stars