Book Review: Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

In the sequel to UNSUB, Gardiner pits Caitlin Hendrix against a killer based on Ted Bundy and shows again what a great storyteller she is

<i>Into the Black Nowhere</i> by Meg Gardiner

Given the current state of the world, it's hard, especially as a female-identifying individual, to process the constant threat of violence, even in fiction. There are more crime-based narratives circling around than ever before, and maybe that has something to do with the IRL abundance, but maybe it's also because exposing perpetrators' cruelty to the light reduces their long-term success. Usually.

For the majority of her writing career, Austin-based Meg Gardiner has employed female lead characters and based her fictional plots on horrific true crimes. The first book in her UNSUB series (soon to join the CBS television roster) was inspired by the Zodiac Killer, while the new installment, Into the Black Nowhere, homes in on an unsub (aka UNidentified SUBject) based on serial murderer and rapist Ted Bun­dy. Once again, Gardiner's protagonist is Caitlin Hendrix, a police detective in the series' first book, now an FBI profiler in the Behavioral Analysis Unit and someone who's suffered her own personal tragedies and physical harm as a result of criminal violence. Here, she's tasked with profiling a serial killer who's kidnapping women in our very own South Central Texas on Saturday nights. (Frequent location mentions amp up the intensity for those of us living just off of I-35.) The victims are blond, beautiful, and found dead, positioned strategically in nightgowns. The killer, charming and ruthless, is a ticking time bomb who, like Bundy, may be able to dance more skillfully than his law enforcement counterparts.

Gardiner opens with a chilling, if sparsely described, scene in which a young mother vanishes from her home. And then another young woman vanishes. And another, linking those clues together as fast as the pages turn. As a profiler, Hendrix has to get into the mind of the killer, and she does so strategically, as any good crime fighter ought to do. It's all about the psychodrama with this one. While the twists are a blast to read (as far as the hellscape that comes with homicide goes), a few had me rolling my eyes. That said, Gardiner is a great storyteller, demonstrating that there's no need to dilly-dally in exposition: Set the scene, scare the hell out of the reader, pepper with forensics, twist the story into terrifying knots, and then begin the unraveling (or not). While the book certainly has a formulaic feel, it works. And if it's a bit over the top in its conclusion, Gardiner's fast-paced style mimics the internet's speed, certainly upping the creep factor. For that alone, it's worth diving in.


Into the Black Nowhere: An UNSUB Novel

by Meg Gardiner (Dutton, 368 pp., $26)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More crime fiction
<i>Lady in the Lake</i> by Laura Lippman
Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
Sixties Baltimore is unveiled in this new crime novel

Rosalind Faires, Jan. 3, 2020

Austin Author Chandler Baker Talks About Creating a Novel for the #MeToo Movement
Austin Author Chandler Baker Talks About Creating a Novel for the #MeToo Movement
Writer of Whisper Network offers a healthy dose of righteous indignation

M. Brianna Stallings, July 26, 2019

More Austin authors
Sherry Thomas Is Our Lady of Crime Solving
Sherry Thomas Is Our Lady of Crime Solving
The game's afoot in a very different way in this Austin author's spin on Sherlock Holmes

Rosalind Faires, July 13, 2018

Steven Saylor's <i>The Throne of Caesar</i>
Steven Saylor's The Throne of Caesar
Caesar's murder gets a fresh coat of paint in this mystery of ancient Rome

Rosalind Faires, July 13, 2018

More Arts Reviews
<i>Hezada! I Miss You</i> by Erin Pringle
Hezada! I Miss You by Erin Pringle
Erin Pringle's debut novel is a circus of grief

Cat McCarrey, March 6, 2020

<i>The Teacher</i> by Michal Ben-Naftali
The Teacher
This prize-winning novel's tale of a student piecing together the hidden life of her teacher, a Holocaust survivor who killed herself, is haunting

Jay Trachtenberg, Feb. 14, 2020

More by Jessi Cape
Drinks Issue 2020
Drinks Issue 2020
It's a weird year, but we still have to drink something

July 24, 2020

Support Fair Wages and Your Digestion With Mayawell's Tonic
Support Fair Wages and Your Digestion With Mayawell's Tonic
Agave + bubbles = good vibes

July 24, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Crime Month 2018, Meg Gardiner, crime fiction, Austin authors, Ted Bundy, Crime Month 2018, Meg Gardiner, crime fiction, Austin authors, Ted Bundy, Texas Book Festival 2018

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle