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.
This is the third Special Agent: Nina Guererra book in the series, which keeps getting better. Your fix is right here! The Falcon follows A Different Dawn and Guererra’s debut in The Cipher. This tantalizing thriller can be enjoyed as a standalone as Maldonado expertly supplies the necessary backstory. Expect Nina Guererra to explode into your living room, as Netflix has plans to adapt “The Cipher” with Jennifer Lopez cast as Nina.
Maldonado utilizes her more than two decades of law enforcement to bring reality to this twisty addition to the lore of the elite members of the B.A.U.. (Behavioral Analysis Unit). Five beautiful young undergrads at the elite AIF (Arizona Institute of Technology) in Phoenix, have vanished without a trace. No witnesses or video evidence of abduction, with campus cams mysteriously exhibiting glitches and deletions during relevant time intervals.
The FBI team has been called in after an extensive investigation by the AIT police has failed to reveal a substantial lead. The team is comprised of Special Agent Dr Jeffrey Wade, FBI’s most senior profiler (and effectively Nina’s mentor), Agent Kelly Breck, with an extensive background in both video forensics and cybercrime, Agent Jake Kent, ex-Navy SEAL trained in psychology, linguistics and behavioral profiling, and badass Agent Nina Guererra, who brings with her a background as a street cop and detective – all under the guidance of their boss, Supervisor , SSA, Gerard Buxton.
Nina has already gained notoriety in aiding in the resolution of a high-profile case in Phoenix. The local newspapers have given her the nomme de plume of “Warrior Girl.” Kelly is never without her laptop and her sassy attitude is softened by her southern accent. Nina’s back story is neatly revealed to compliment her ongoing motivation. Herself, an actual victim of the serial killer, known as “The Cipher” as a sixteen year-old teenager. The world watched as Nina was left with both psychological, emotional, and physical scars. This case has a visceral connection with Nina.
The investigation is further complicated when the reporters and TV cameras show up. The family is offering a fifty-thousand-dollar reward for information. Naturally for every actionable lead, the tip line will receive a hundred crank calls and dead ends .. and even false accusations designed to send the police after someone the caller despises. To make matters worse, the reporters film a stocky, balding man, wearing a purple Hawaiian shirt with his arm around the waist of one of the grieving co-eds’ mothers. He is none other than the self-proclaimed psychic detective, “Arthur Mage” – real name, Alvin Scrudd – and an often thorn in the side of Phoenix police. As always, praying on the fear and grief of victims’ family in exchange for notoriety and ultimately money.
Once the team arrives, a sixth co-ed is abducted, last seen on video kissing her boyfriend goodbye, followed by a brief video of her heading to her dorm before the cam recording goes wonky. While the team is engrossed with further investigation and establishing a profile a hiker stumbles upon a grisly scene in a remote, abandoned cave. Five bodies are found. Laid out on a slab of stone reminiscent of an ancient stone altar. Three were completely wrapped head to toe in strips of white cloth… the other two were nude, but covered in white granules that apparently was desiccating their bodies. This sick monster was making mummies of them. They no longer were tracking a kidnapper … but, rather hunting a serial killer.
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. The narrative is told in a linear fashion with multiple points of view, including the unidentified monster, incrementally revealing his backstory and motivation, while progressively revealing his heinous actions. Along the bumpy ride, the reader is presented with multiple clues and possible suspects, as well as red herrings, defying the reader to solve the mystery.
Maldonado’s extensive law enforcement experience allows her to be both insightful and entertaining in exploring the many terms encountered in crime fiction.
Thanks to Isabella Maldonado for this wonderful ride. And to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer Books for supplying an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review. Hopefully there will be many more enthralling cases with Agent Nina Guererra.