The Butcher and the Wren
“The Butcher and the Wren” is the debut novel by Alaina Urquhart, the co-host of the true crime podcast “Morbid”. Not to be ignored are the author’s college degrees in criminology, psychology and biology, all three of which definitely come in handy in the addictive and spine-chilling “Butcher”.
Dr. Wren Muller is a forensic psychologist, working alongside the New Orleans Police Department, where she tries to give a voice to the dead. When a cruel and vicious serial killer begins scattering bodies throughout the Louisiana bayou, Wren intends to use all of her extensive knowledge to bring the serial killer to justice. But Wren doesn’t just have professional experience- years earlier, Wren herself was held captive by a serial killer called “The Butcher” and although she escaped, “The Butcher” was never caught. As bodies continue to pile up Wren realizes her worst nightmare has come true- “The Butcher” is back, and she is once again a target.
“The Butcher and the Wren” has all of the workings of a police procedural, combined with a serial killer on a mission and the forensic psychologist destined to uncover the truth. To top it all off, the fact that this novel is a debut speaks to Urquhart’s creativity and innate talent.
Urquhart is also an autopsy technician and she uses her passion and extensive knowledge to bring a realistic vibe to the character of Wren, who is clever, persistent and relatable. Wren’s past is not immediately known, but once it is revealed it only aligns the reader more with the protagonist, and Wren instantly becomes someone to root for. The serial killer, Jeremy, is known from the beginning, as he narrates some chapters and we get to learn more about the disturbed individual who not only haunts Wren, but continues his murderous rampage. Knowing who the murderer is at the onset was perhaps even creepier than a slow reveal, as the inside of Jeremy’s head is a downright horrifying place to be.
The setting Urquhart chooses is perfection. From the swamps and bayous to Bourbon Street, it is easy to imagine New Orleans as the place to perform such dark deeds. As Jeremy chases his prey through the deep swamp, readers can easily imagine the snapping crocodiles and throngs of mosquitoes and Urquhart paints a realistic (and sometimes gory) picture on every page.
“The Butcher and the Wren” is the first novel in a series, and the ending definitely leaves some room for the sequel to take over. However, there is enough in the conclusion to leave the reader satisfied, yet anxiously anticipating where the next novel will go. Urquhart delivers the kind of story worth reading with all of the lights on!
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