Friday, October 28, 2022

Layla Reyne - Variable Onset

When the serial killer known as Dr. Fear seemingly reemerges after a cooling-off period, Special Agent Lincoln Monroe wants on the case. He knows his research on the calculating criminal, who targets couples and uses their worst fears to kill them, could prove invaluable. But nothing can prepare Lincoln for the agent waiting for him in Apex, Virginia: a brash and cocky former student. Carter Warren is everything Lincoln is not, and somehow everything he wants. And they’ll be going undercover. As newlyweds.
For Carter, seeing Lincoln again—and flustered to boot—pokes his raging bear of a crush something fierce. He thinks posing as lovers will provide the perfect bait for Dr. Fear. But pretending to be married forces them to confront fears of their own…like giving in to the very real chemistry between them.
With evidence pointing to the possibility of a copycat killer, Lincoln and Carter will have to race to separate truth from fiction. But when another couple goes missing, finding the killer will test every ounce of their training, skills and the strength of their bond like never before.

Comment: I've added this book to my TBR after reading some positive reviews on a few sites. It is also the first book I try by the author so I had no expectations whatsoever.

This story begins with a serial killer, labeled dr Fear, back to his killing of couples, using their fears as the method to kill. FBI agent Lincoln Monroe is currently more an investigator and teacher than a field agent, but his research makes him perfect to be paired with another agent so they can pretend to be a couple and, then, more easily be undercover on the city where it is believable the serial killer is likely hiding under everyone's noses. In comes Carter Warren, a former student of Lincoln at the FBI academy, someone Lincoln remembers as being a troublemaker in his class, but also someone he was attracted to. It seems the attraction might have been mutual and now Carter feels it's his opportunity to see if he could have something with Lincoln, even besides their case. 
As time goes by and the investigation advances, will they be able to find the killer before more people are dead?

When I started to read this book I was having a slightly busy time with other things and I struggled a little to have time to be focused on it, which probably affected my dedication and appreciation for the overall plot. At the same time I think the division of attention within the story to the case investigated and to the main character's romance wasn't as compelling as I would have liked...

The story has enough elements to make for an interesting book: the case is a mystery type, and one could look for the hints and the clues and the steps in an investigation to catch a killer, this would offer some fast pace scenes from time to time. It also has two characters who  were attracted to each other but never acted on those emotions and now, under the cover of a job, perhaps the lines between duty and reality could blur. At least this is what I assumed would happen and it actually did, which is great.

However, I wasn't always as absorbed in what was happening, to be honest. The plot is intriguing because the killer has to e someone hiding in plain sight in a small town of sorts, and the clues investigated point to a certain small number of possibilities and that is what the FBI is trying to discover. I just think there were many secondary characters, of course some were just red herrings, and this is usually fun, to see how things play out and then how the actual truth is explained in the end. For me, the issue is that I felt there were some ideas which were so conveniently scientific or elaborate (the variable hinted in the title) that the inclusion of so many people where the variable could be present just felt... too unlikely. I don't know, but I wasn't fully convinced.

I suppose this specific situation would have to happen somehow, so the presence of Lincoln could be justified in this case. He is more a teacher and analyst since his work as a field agent wasn't something he felt he was very good at and he is happy to stay behind the scenes, something which benefited his domestic life and the easier way to raise his daughter, who stays with him most of the time.
Lincoln is, perhaps, possibly described as a "nerd" - in the good sense of the word - and I liked him, he was cute and shy and his age had nothing to do with his personality, I think he would always be a quiet and calm person.
Carter is described as being more active, enjoying the thrill of a case and what he can do to solve it, but as the story develops, we learn about his past and his personality and I ended up liking him as well.

As for the romance, that is a different story... this is not a book where things are explicit, mostly just hinted at and the intimate scenes weren't graphic, but one could get the idea they were into another another. Still, in my opinion, this was too subtle. The supposed longing from their time as teacher/student and the forced proximity now they are pretending to be a couple, the faking with very serious feelings behind everything... I felt these aspects weren't used well or that they almost misused. I think their relationship wasn't the best element, even though there are moments where it's cute to see them together.

When the story starts to be wrapped up, we finally get to learn how some things came to be but I must say that while the identity of the killer isn't such a huge surprise, all things considered, the whole explanation for why this person is a serial killer was also under developed. It seems as if this person only killed others because of a personality trait and, to be fair, the psychology wasn't as clear as I would like.

Despite the things I'd wish were better, this was still an adequate story to read and a few scenes were indeed special... but I confess I didn't finish with this great feeling of having to rush to read something else by the author...perhaps not so soon anyway.
Grade: 6/10

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