by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published by: Disney Hyperion
Genres: Crime, Mystery, Suspense
Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.
What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length. Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.
As a fan of Criminal Minds, CSI and the like, I slipped right into the Jennifer Lynn Barnes newest novel, The Naturals. She weaves a tale of serial murders, cold cases and young teens with natural abilities creating a unique tale that was both fun and suspenseful. Mini review: different, suspenseful and engaging.
Seventeen year old Cassie is living with her estranged father’s Italian family after the murder of her mother five years ago. While she knows they love her, she just doesn’t fit in with her red hair and unique ability to read people. She longs for the day when she turns eighteen and can be out from under their watchful gaze. When a handsome, young man enters the diner where she works and leaves a card from the FBI telling her to contact them she is immediately curious. Is this about her mother’s unsolved murder? Why did a boy her age drop it off? Cassie of course calls, and is invited to join the program for teens that show natural abilities that would be of benefit in solving cold cases. The tale that unfolds was different with a few twists that made for an exciting read.
The teens reside in an old Victorian home outside, Washington D.C. under the tutelage of two FBI agents. Cassie is remarkable with her talent but is also vulnerable and insecure making her an interesting character. She tends to be a loner, and while we see some growth, there is room for improvement. Michael has the ability to read emotions, he is charismatic and takes a romantic interest in Cassie. Lia is snarky and can tell when a person is lying. She will call you on and has an “in your face” personality. I would like to know her back story. Cassie’s roommate Sloane, is a walking encyclopedia of statistics and I found her to be fascinating, especially after a cup of coffee. Dean is a natural profiler like Cassie and is dark and brooding. He is the most fleshed out, and yet I wanted more. There is a mini-love triangle, but it is secondary to the plot, and while interesting never really develops.
The Naturals was predictable, at times a little unrealistic and the characters weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked, but the profiling and cold cases made this an engaging read and kept me turning the pages. I am a cold case, Criminal Minds junkie who finds serial killers and their profiles fascinating. I know creepy, right? I found Barnes plot in this respect intriguing. I liked the concept of a school for talented young people to prepare them for a career in the FBI. The academy was interesting, as was the training assignments the character’s engaged in. We are also privy to a serial killer’s thought as he murders a series of women. Call me sick, but I loved this aspect. Cassie cracked the case but not quite, leaving some interesting twists and reveals. Despite wanting more depth, and plausibility issues I can honestly say that I enjoyed this. It is my hope that we see more of the Naturals but that the author further develops the characters, and adds depth to the world-building and situations.
Fans of profiling, Criminal Minds, CSI and crime novels,will enjoy The Naturals. While I wanted more depth and world-building the concept of profiling for the FBI, and the psychological mystery made this a fun read. I would gladly revisit these characters again.
Three and half cups of coffee out of five
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