A Different Dawn
August 29, 2021

Book Review

A Different Dawn

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


Criminal Minds ran for 15 seasons and ended on the 324th episode on 2/19/20 after attracting a legion of fans. Rejoice fellow junkies! Another elite team of FBI agents have been formed by Isabella Maldonado. Your fix is right here!

Maldonado utilizes her more than two decades of law enforcement to craft a wonderful addition to the lore of the elite members of the B.A.U. (Behavioral Analysis Unit, based in Quantico, Virginia. Called in by local police forces to assist in the investigation and apprehension of the nation’s most heinous crimes. She tells this entertaining and insightful story of this newly formed team.

Featured is Special Agent Nina Guerrera, who already has gained notoriety in aiding in the resolution of a high-profile case in Phoenix (as told in the first book of this series). The local newspapers have given her the nomme de plume of “Warrior Girl” (which is the Spanish translation of her name). She answers to Supervisory Special Agent Gerard Buxton, as do the other members of the team. Dr Jeffrey Wade, her mentor and the most senior criminal profiler in the FBI. Even though in his early fifties, he has a doctorate in psychology and a couple decades of experience. The team is rounded out with Special Agents: Jake Kent and Kelly Breck. Kent is a former Navy SEAL and strikes a formidable image with his muscular build and sandy colored buzz cut and somewhat incongruous black framed glasses. Breck is the cyber specialist and never without her laptop. Her sassy attitude is softened by her southern accent.

The tale begins with insight into the origins of Nina’s strengths and motivations with a glimpse into her childhood, twenty years earlier at the age of seven. The scene is a girl’s group home in Fairfax, Virginia. Nina never knew her family, and was reportedly left in a dumpster. Even at seven, Nina was curious and protective of the younger girls. There was little expectation of being adopted. An incident is described when one of the older girls and a bully was taunting and terrifying with the story of La Llorona (“yorona”). The wailing (or weeping) woman whose misdeeds in life have left her spirit trapped on Earth, where she torments little children. ( A Latina ghost story / folk tale that has been forever passed on, and was even the source of a horror film ). Basically, the wife has found out about her husband’s infidelity, and in retribution she drowns his beloved two children. So remorseful she then drowns herself in the same river. She is denied admission to heaven and is banished back to purgatory on Earth until she can find her children. ) It is said to the children, if they hear her, they are next to die. The bully also taunts Nina by calling her “dumpster baby” while Nina comforts and protects several younger girls.

Immediately the reader is subjected to a heinous situation. The UnSub creeps into a home using night-vision goggles, while the inhabitants are peacefully sleeping. Acknowledged are years of planning and weeks of surveillance. (“deaf to pleas, blind to tears and without mercy”) The first stop is the nursery where the newborn girl is suffocated. The lifeless bundle is carried into the master bedroom. The father was quickly dispatched with a single gunshot to the heart. The wife was found in the bathtub, dressed in a nightgown with a pistol resting in her right hand and a single gunshot wound in her right temple. It initially looked to the first responding officers that the mother killed her family before turning the gun on herself. The staging was almost perfect.

The Phoenix police homicide detective noted a small incongruity. A trace amount of blood was noted in the entryway foyer. Crime analysis matched this specimen to that of the father. An impossibility since he died instantly in bed. Further investigation, using an electrostatic lifter, uncovered a barely visible shoe print (“ghost print”) on the foyer floor that did not match anything owned by the father. Submission to the database (VICAP- Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) found a match from a case four years earlier in New York City. A mother, father and newborn girl were murdered in their Manhattan apartment, also staged to look like a double-homicide-suicide; and, also occurring on February twenty-ninth (on leap day)

Based on these horrendous events, the B.A.U. team was tasked to determine whether the two cases are related and to assist in the investigation by the Phoenix police department. The team immediately began the search to uncover any other murders that were misidentified anywhere in the country. With painstaking effort, they uncovered a clear pattern with the UnSub hitting on leap day (therefore every four years) dating back to the oldest incident twenty-eight years ago, also in Phoenix. All eight murders occurred in major cities. Obviously, they were dealing with a unique predator. Although severely disturbed, he was able to pass himself off as normal, and probably charming … and apparently able to blend invisibly into his surroundings. He is ruthless, manipulative, and completely without conscience. In other words, a self-disciplined psychopath. But what is the purpose of his elaborate staging? Obviously creating a scenario that he wanted the police to believe, but more importantly it satisfied an emotional need. Strap in while the wild and twisted hunt begins! Guererra will uncover revelations that rock her world.

Isabella Maldonado crafts a riveting and complex tale with concise and gritty prose that progressively ratchets up the suspense and tension resulting in a page-turner that can’t be put down. Her law enforcement experience allows her to be both insightful and entertaining in exploring the many terms encountered in crime fiction. A clear understanding is obtained in regards to MO, signature, precipitating stressors, as well as the difference between sociopath and psychopath—and the newer terminology of ASPD (antisocial personality disorder).

Thanks to Isabella for this wonderful ride, and to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer Books for supplying an uncorrected proof in exchange for an honest review.

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