Manhunter, by Loreth Anne White

13 Dec

Manhunter, by Loreth Anne White

Manhunter is the first installment in Ms White’s Wild Country series for Silhouette’s Romantic Suspense line. Upon a heartfelt recommendation by one Shannon my-TBR mountain-hates-you Stacey, I grabbed this one up and boy, am I happy I did! Ms White manages to pack a lot of subtlety and nuance in a novel barely 210 pages long.

From where I sit, the emphasis is on the suspense side of the story rather on the romance, and while I am happy with it, I know some readers prefer a different balance.

Here’s the (much hated) back cover blurb:

Lover…and prey.

Sergeant Gabriel Caruso arrived in the remote Yukon wilderness with one goal: to erase all memories of the serial killer who had ruined his life. But he soon discovered that the madman was hot on his heels—and after anything that touched Gabe’s heart. Including local tracker Silver Karvonen.

As Silver plotted with Gabe to stop their predator, she matched more than wits with the Mountie. Even the icy tundra couldn’t muffle the heat shimmering between them. But for Silver and Gabe, love could very well be a matter of life and death.

Wild Country – Everyone is searching for something…

Going by the blurb, one would think that Silver and Gabe spend most their time rolling around in the proverbial hay. The reality is that most of the novel deals with the minutiae of tracking, the psychology of the serial killer, and the growth both these characters undergo throughout the novel.

Both Gabe and Silver have emotional scars, of which their physical scars bear symbol. The killer has an uncanny instinct to find these weaknesses in those he stalks and exploit it. In Gabe’s case, it was the killer himself who inflicted the wounds Gabe is still struggling to heal from. Interestingly, the situation is quite different with Silver. The killer originally zeroes in on her because of her well known tracking ability, and therefore he has to study her a bit in order to find her trigger.

The game of cat and mouse—hunter and prey—the three of them play is truly fascinating, and Ms White’s writing conveys perfectly the sense of danger, of urgency, of very real desperation Gabe and Silver feel as a result of the killer’s actions. Simultaneously, the killer’s point of view (thankfully limited) is chilling in its coldness. Finally, a psychopath which is written as a psychopath, instead of caricature of the breed—cold, determined, intelligent, devoid of the most basic of human emotions or moral/ethical compass.

While obviously expecting a positive resolution—this is after all a genre romance novel—I was never sure of how exactly it was going to happen, and was never sure exactly how far, emotionally and physically, the author would push her characters. Turns out she did push them, harder and further than many other romantic suspense books I’ve read, including some rather lengthier ones.

The ultimate resolution was both satisfying and a slight let down. On the one hand, justice was indeed served, in a rather satisfying manner. On the other, it left both characters off the hook regarding the ethical questions Silver had asked Gabe as they set out to hunt the killer.

I do have a couple of minor complaints, though. For example, Silver’s scar is mentioned a few times; something about it “pulling” at the surrounding tissue as she moves. Perhaps my experience—or lack thereof—blinds me to this possibility, but after five years and considering Silver’s very active lifestyle (wilderness guide and big game tracker) either she has terrible keloid scarring***, or the wound went all the way to the bone. Which, given the position of the scar, would have killed her in minutes, either through blood loss or exposure.

Secondly, her need for external absolution over past actions seemed out of sync with her character. Feeling guilty about bringing trouble to her band, and perhaps even about how that brought danger to her child later one, that’s perfectly understandable. Her mistrust of the RCMP is based on painful personal experience, and thus also understandable. Her guilt over the actions forced on her by someone else? Not so much.

Lastly, I wasn’t completely sold on Gabe falling in love after only one year. First we are told that his confrontation with the killer pretty much destroyed him—physically and emotionally; that he doesn’t trust himself; that he’s hidden the depth of the damage to psychiatrists and therapists; that he’s ready to let himself die. Less than two weeks later he’s looking forward to having a future with Silver. I can’t believe both of these, and if the second holds true, then he was not as traumatized as all that.

Still, complaints aside, I enjoyed Manhunter very much indeed. This one gets 8 out of 10

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***keloid scars are a form of hypertrophic scars

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