Chills and thrills in Killer Instinct
Killer Instinct, the second installment of The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a thrilling sequel to the first book. Every bit just as gripping, this book follows the same protagonists as they race against time to discover another serial killer. The Naturals follow a series of baffling murders and murky motives to discover who is really behind all the deaths.
In the first installment of the series, 17-year-old Cassie Hobbes is recruited in the Naturals program for talented teens. She is relocated to Virginia where she meets her fellow Naturals Dean, Michael, Sloane and Lia.
As opposed to the first book, The Naturals, Killer Instinct explores the backstory of Dean Redding, a fellow Natural of Cassie’s. Dean’s chilling backstory had been previously alluded to; however, the atrocities hidden in his past had never been revealed in depth. Barnes utilizes a killer who imitates Dean’s father to haunt Dean and make him question the extent of his father’s influence in the criminal world.
The plot of the book was thrilling and ended in a big reveal that gave me chills. From the moment the first death occurred, the mystery and suspicion that surrounded it only grew. The deaths are described in amazing detail and are gruesome, graphically depicting each victim’s demise. The characters run through a multitude of dead ends with every additional lead adding more confusion to the case. Finally, the Naturals interview Daniel Redding, who twists every word that comes out of his mouth. Through his deception, Redding led me to believing his lies and left me in awe at his aptitude for deception. I found his withholding of information to be infuriating.
Although Daniel Redding is a despicable human being, he was personally one of my favorite characters in the novel as his menacing presence, dramatic flair and complex character brought excitement and shocking plot twists. Through his actions, he creates an atmosphere of suspense with his ambiguous responses and double-meaning words.
The psychological component of the novel is unnerving. Through her carefully crafted scenes, Barnes allows the reader to immerse themselves in the serial killer’s mind. She places small sections of the murderer’s first person perspective to allow the reader to see what is happening from the killer’s side of the story. As the novel continues, the thoughts become more obscure and succeed in confusing the reader. Despite being deliberately confusing, the plot constantly left me considering every possible solution to the case. I loved the confusion Barnes implements as it left me enthralled with the storyline and incapable of putting the book down.
The character development of the novel is masterfully done. Dean, previously mysterious and closed off, reveals himself to be a caring, albeit vulnerable character. Scarred from his past experiences, he is afraid of allowing others to come into his life. Although heart-wrenching, the love triangle between Cassie, Dean and their fellow Natural, Michael, displays extensive character growth on Dean’s part as his tough veneer cracks and he reveals to Cassie the raging storm beneath his calm facade of calm.
Barnes exceeds the standard she set with her first book. I found that this novel got to the point more quickly than its predecessor. The plot was also much more complicated, which in turn resulted in a more satisfying ending. Due to the gruesome imagery of each victim’s death, it wouldn’t be suitable for a younger audience. Anyone interested in the mystery thriller genre need look no further than Killer Instinct.
By Nicole Chiang and Isaac Le, Staff writers
Photo courtesy of inkmonster.net