I received this book for free from the Publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne
Series: The Naturalist #1
Published by Thomas & Mercer on October 1 2017
Genres: Adult, Thriller
Format: Finished paperback
Buy on Amazon
The nitty-gritty: So. Much. Fun! If you love science and atmospheric mysteries, then you must read this book.
I had never heard of this book, let alone author Andrew Mayne, who is also a TV personality and has written a bunch of other books, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to check it out. Being a book blogger definitely has its perks, and discovering new authors and books that normally wouldn’t make it onto my radar is one of them. The Naturalist is CRAZY, and I mean that in the best possible way. I had so much fun with this book from start to finish, and although there are some extremely over the top moments that seem almost ridiculous, I had to let those slide because this was such a page turner.
The story takes place in and around Bozeman, Montana. Dr. Theo Cray is a professor and is an expert in the field of bioinformatics. He’s a scientist, but he combines the study of the natural world with computer science, and has created a unique niche for himself in the professional world. He has the ability to see patterns where others might not, and right now that ability is just what he needs to get himself out of a terrible jam.
The body of a young woman has been discovered in the nearby woods, dead by what looks like a bear mauling. Theo is brought in for questioning, during which he finds out he actually knew the girl, a former student of his named Juniper. The investigators find traces of bear fur in Juniper’s wounds, so Theo is no longer a suspect. But something doesn’t seem quite right to him, and so he secretly begins his own investigation into Juniper’s death. Theo (unwisely) steals some blood samples from the police, and with the help of some friends in the forensics field, Theo discovers that the evidence that led the police to conclude that a bear killed Juniper was actually planted by the real killer.
As one gruesome clue leads to the next, Theo is determined to uncover the truth, even when he realizes that he might be the killer’s next victim if he doesn’t back off.
If you love science like I do, then you will love this book. Believe me when I say I’m nowhere near a scientist myself, but I’m completely fascinated by all types of science, especially forensic science (probably because of my love of the TV show Bones). Theo is one of the smartest characters I’ve met in quite some time, and I loved how analytical his brain is. He makes the most astonishing leaps at times, and he does seem to have more skills than your normal human (he used to be a paramedic so he’s familiar with dressing wounds, in additional to everything else!), but where character traits like this might have bothered me in a different book, this story was so skillfully crafted that I have to forgive the author for making Theo seem nearly inhuman.
The Naturalist’s biggest strength is probably the pacing. Mayne dumps the reader right in the middle of the action on page 1 and doesn’t let up until the finale. Once Theo finds out that the body that was just discovered is someone he knew, he refuses to rest until he discovers what really happened to her. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that Theo discovers that the person who killed Juniper has killed before, and he uses his skills as a scientist to try to prove his theory.
Mayne very smartly give Theo an emotional reason to solve the mystery of Juniper’s murder. Juniper was out in the woods by herself, doing scientific research, and Theo blames himself for encouraging her scientific curiosity, even though it’s been years since he’s even seen her. Of course he’s pulled along by his own curiosity and a burning need for justice, but he also feels as though he owes it to Juniper to find her killer. Mayne also introduces a love interest for Theo, a waitress named Jillian, and although at times I thought the romance got in the way of the real story, there is a reason for Jillian’s presence, which you’ll understand when you read the book.
Andrew Mayne also nails the location and the sense of despair that hangs over small, economically devastated towns. Part of the action takes place in a little town called Hudson Creek, and the author does a great job of describing the abject sadness and purposelessness of the people who still live there. (And boy, is it a perfect place for a serial killer to hang out!) I did a quick Google check and was happy to discover that Hudson Creek is a real place.
Part of the fun of this story is guessing what’s really going on. The local law enforcement are convinced that Juniper was killed by a bear, and they have plenty of proof to back up their story. But when Theo enters the picture, he’s certain that they are wrong, and he spends the rest of the book trying to convince the police that they’re looking in the wrong direction. It doesn’t help that Theo’s on the suspect list, either, which adds to the tension and keeps the reader guessing.
If you’re in the mood for a fast-paced mystery with plenty of unexpected twists and turns, then look no further. And especially if you love stories that use scientific evidence to solve crimes, you definitely don’t want to miss this book. I’m so happy to have discovered Andrew Mayne, and I’m looking forward to reading more from him very soon.
Big thanks to the publisher and Wunderkind PR for supplying a review copy.