REVIEW: The Naturalist, Andrew Mayne

Monday, 16 October 2017

Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop. As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue…or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?

This book is addictive and fast-paced and a little bit creepy, with its success certainly lying in its intriguing and compelling mystery. Theo Cray, a university lecturer, goes to a litany of crazy lengths to solve the mystery at the book’s centre and find out what (or who) killed his former-student. Along the way, he discovers more and more victims to the thing lurking in the forrest and no matter how loudly he tries to tell the police, he seems to be the only one who cares about finding out who killed all of these young women. Theo’s determination is addictive and it is very quickly reflected onto the reader as they are too compelled to not stop until all of these victims find justice.
Clearly, Theo Cray is an unexpected protagonist in this particular genre - less alcohol detective with a dark past and more socially-inept genius with an eye for anomalies. In particular, he reminds me a lot of Spencer Reid from the crime-drama television series, Criminal Minds, who just happens to be my favourite character... ever.
The focus of the narrative being on a character such as this, allows for vast amounts of knowledge - on an array of subjects like missing persons statistics per US state, the behavioural habits of prolific American serial killers and the growing patterns of certain flowers - to be included in his investigation. All of these topics filter into the story seamlessly to add another layer to the narrative, whilst also showing all of the tiny clues - most of which you don’t even realise until he points out their significance - that Theo Cray manages to piece together to find the murderer. And more importantly, though the author relays a lot of information through Theo’s complicated thought-processes, it is described in a way that allows the reader to understand everything and not be overwhelmed.
Honestly, the only negative I have is in regards to the love interest (which is the only reason I’m not giving this five stars), although I can understand that the plot was created so that the whole investigation didn’t have to exist solely in Theo’s thoughts. It just felt a little unnecessary and towards the end of the novel, when the threat became more real, he seemed to care more about her safety than he did his own parents’. Which, with him only knowing her for a month at the most, I found to be incredibly unrealistic. 
Overall, this was a compelling tale that I sped through in the space of a day and one that I can’t recommend enough for other people to check out, if they’re looking for a subversion to the usual crime-thriller. Whilst I will be waiting eagerly for the sequel.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review

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