“An Evil Mind” Chris Carter (Simon and Schuster) – novel review

An Evil Mind Chris Carter book cover

A freak accident leads to the discovery of a serial killer. A couple of Wyoming police officers decide to breakfast at a diner off a freeway. Whilst they are placing their order, a car, clearly out of control, runs off the freeway and hits one of the diner’s outbuildings. No one in the diner is injured but the car driver is dead; later it’s discovered he had a heart attack and was probably dead before the crash. However, the out of control car hit a Ford Taurus left in the diner car park, popping open the trunk. The police officers discover two human heads, just about recognisable as female but carrying sufficient injuries to make facial recognition impossible. The Ford Taurus driver is arrested and the FBI called in. The driver, first identified as Liam Shaw and then as Lucien Folter when it’s discovered the first identity was fake, refuses to talk unless he can talk to Robert Hunter.

Robert Hunter is with the Violent Crimes Unit in LAPD and is a brilliant criminal psychologist; known to the FBI for the textbook they use. Actually about to go on a rare holiday, Hunter reluctantly agrees to be involved in the investigation. He recognises Lucien Folter. They used to be roommates at college but lost touch after graduation. Lucien mentions the twin theory: the exploration of why one twin is happy to theoretically explore criminal psychology and why another isn’t satisfied with theory but tips into exploring what it’s like to actually kill someone. It doesn’t take Hunter or the FBI Agent Courtney Taylor who’s been assigned to work with him, long to figure that Lucien is the worst type of psychopath: completely incapable of feeling anything for his victims. Initial evidence suggests his victims were mainly, but not exclusively women, of differing ages and body types so trawling through unsolved murders and/or missing persons for a certain type of victim isn’t an option.

They quickly work out there could have been around thirty-three victims. Their job now is to identify who they were and where their remains are so that their relatives at least have a chance of closure. In order to do that, they need Lucien to cooperate. But Lucien likes playing games and his background means he can tell when Taylor or Hunter are lying. Unable to inflict physical pain on Taylor and Hunter, Lucien goes for mental and emotional pain. The death of Hunter’s mother when he was only eight years old is a good starting point and Hunter knows he’s got to play along if they’re going to get answers. Can Hunter stomach Lucien’s terrorising games long enough to get him to reveal the names and locations of his victims?

For all that Lucien tries to persuade Hunter that their places could be swapped, Hunter doesn’t lose sight of the fact that Lucien can only see others as tools, a means to use as he sees fit. Lucien’s complete lack of compassion, combined with practiced mental discipline make him utterly dangerous. Lucien wants notoriety. He wants his journals to become criminal psychology text books: his immortality. Hunter knows the value of those journals, but needs to deny Lucien.

Just when the tension couldn’t be tighter, Lucien discloses that one victim is still alive: imprisoned and beginning to suffer dehydration but still alive. Lucien demands he accompany Hunter and Taylor to retrieve the victim. At the same time, Lucien pushes Hunter for details about his late fiancée, particularly how she died. Hunter knows Lucien is planning to use this retrieval to escape, but can Hunter thwart his escape and save the victim?

“An Evil Mind” is a taut as a tuned guitar string played by an accomplished guitarist, who doesn’t just play the tune but owns it. Chris Carter, a former criminal psychologist, doesn’t just dump his background knowledge on the page, but crafts an engaging story with compelling characters.

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