You Are Next
I’m certainly not unaccustomed to reading books or watching TV shows or movies that have violence; some of my favorites are romantic suspense or crime dramas. But rarely do they upset me quite as much as Katia Lief’s You Are Next did.
Before the book started, former Detective Karin Shaeffer’s husband and baby daughter were brutally murdered by a serial killer she had caught. His MO is systematically killing members of a family, one by one, leaving dominoes as clues to his next victim. The numbers left signify something – a Social Security number, birthday, street address, whatever. In the aftermath of his murder of Karin’s husband and child, he is caught – but his damage has been done. She’s suicidal, and in fact had tried to kill herself twice. As the book opens, the killer (known as JPP – Just Plain Psycho, a weak but useful moniker) has escaped again. She’s tempted to just let him finish the job, but then he’ll just go after the rest of her family – her parents, brother, sister-in-law, and niece are all at risk as long as he’s free. Karin begins to help the investigation a bit, with her former partner Mac trusting her enough to get involved in a minimal way. But things get more complicated when it is discovered JPP isn’t working alone.
As I said, this is a difficult novel emotionally. Her grief is palpable, overwhelming at times, and to the author’s credit, she doesn’t shy away from expressing it, to the point of suicide. I found myself putting off reading this book – not necessarily because it wasn’t good, but because I didn’t want to read it right before I went to bed.
The story has two main sections, with one conflict being mostly resolved halfway through and another one popping up. The second part felt like a sequel rather than a continuation. It isn’t that there were any unanswered questions, really; the only thing that I felt was left unsatisfied by the end of the first half was Mac and Karin’s potential relationship. Mac does serve as a love interest in the book, but it’s secondary and at the end the author plays a cheap trick on the reader regarding the two of them. The latter part of the book just made me sadder, really; it was just such unnecessary strife for this family.
There were a few things about the book that bugged me on a more intellectual level versus an emotional one. The Domino clues were a bit too abstract. I’m pretty sure if I were given the numbers 3, 8, 9, and 5 – out of order, mind you – I wouldn’t have been able to say, “Oh, my mother grew up at 5938 Main St. so she must be the next victim!” Some clues are obvious, like birthdays, but it is illogical to think that JPP would have access to that level of obscure information, and an explanation is never given. Also, while the author researched Prozac to a certain extent, its role in the novel wasn’t based on reality. Karin immediately started out at a high dose, and felt its effects within moments. Prozac isn’t a party drug; you start out slow, otherwise you will have anxiety and panic attacks, and effects aren’t felt for several weeks. It also stays in your system for a long time, so she wouldn’t be suicidal within days of going off the pill. A minor thing, but it bugged me. If the author had just mentioned her taking anti-depressants, it would have been fine, but the detail she paid to Karin’s Prozac use made its inaccuracies stand out.
You Are Next isn’t a bad book; if you like emotional suspense novels, you’ll probably enjoy it. It’s certainly fast paced and hard to put down. But it just lacked too many of the things I look for in a romantic suspense.