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FBI AGENT TESS WINNETT DEVOLVES INTO UNSYMPATHETIC LEAD AND PLOT UNBELIEVABLE!!!
on June 11, 2018
TAKER OF LIVES By Leslie Wolfe
MY REVIEW TWO STARS **
This recent release is currently a Number 1 Bestseller in Mystery Series on AMAZON on today's date 6-5-18.
I finished reading TAKER OF LIVES a few nights ago. This fourth installment of Leslie Wolfe's series featuring FBI Agent Tess Winnett was pre-ordered because I have been an avid fan since the outstanding debut novel THE WATSON GIRL.
Winnett was victimized by a sadistic sexual predator 12 years prior to the events that are unfolding in book four. She and Fradella, an attractive male homicide detective with the sheriff's office, are jogging along a beautiful Florida beach and flirting with each other at the beginning. He asks Tess about her refusal to accept an opportunity to join the elite BEA Unit at Quantico. We are made privy to her private feelings of uncertainty about taking such a giant step. The author is thus able to enlighten new readers about the agent's secret past history of victimization while followers of the series are reminded about Tess's journey on the long path toward healing and her success in battling the demons from her past.
This book is a "page-turner" and the pace of the story is relentless. It is safe to say that the serial killer depicted in this newest FBI Profiler thriller by Wolfe is a new breed, and in fact is not even defined in the novel by using the established criteria. That said, the title of the book (TAKER OF LIVES) is BOTH "spot on" AND misleading. The unidentified subject, or "serial killer" in arguably very loose terms, is factually more guilty of "identity theft" or perhaps even more accurately, character assassination. The assailant uses an impressive knowledge and grasp of modern technology to exploit even the most sophisticated security systems to successfully target his selected victims. The "killer" effectively manages to photograph his victims in compromising and lewd poses within their own homes, then arranges for a blitz release of the images to media outlets all over the world. The "death" of one's identity or character can push some individuals to suicide, but NOT necessarily. However, one's "life" as they know it is certainly ruined (or over) to be sure.
We are given periodic insights into the "killer's" psyche, and he does escalate to committing murder if only as a means to achieve his own perverted definition of fame or celebrity status on the internet. Tess is flexing her muscles figuratively speaking to create a profile, and she is working within the constraints of time and limited manpower.
I believe I mentioned that I have been a fan of this series since the first novel. I viewed Tess as a sympathetic protagonist, brilliant, intuitive, and not prone to making stupid errors at critical times. The fictional character of Winnett is flawed, with references to PTSD, albeit she was not defined by her status as a victim, but rather showed the perseverance and courage to rise above her vulnerabilities. Therefore, it did not immediately dawn on me that I was noticing traits in Tess that I did not recognize. I actually thought to myself after awhile, is Tess acting like a b---- or am I imagining it?
I consciously began to take note of the frequency that Tess was "almost shouting", that she "snapped" (figuratively "biting the heads off" people surrounding her), her temper flaring up repeatedly, losing emotional control, "want(ing) to scream", and leveling loud, sarcastic, demeaning, and often condescending and caustic outbursts at her colleagues. Favorite targets appeared to be the long suffering data analyst but the homicide detectives with the sheriff's office didn't escape her wrath (or pretty much anyone else in her path for that matter---including her superiors). It wasn't long before I began to find her harsh, impatient demeanor grating on my nerves. Her interactions with everyone showed zero consideration all of the time. Her apologies after the fact were tiresome. The author was prone to interjecting how that Tess was prone to self-doubt and that frustration and exhaustion was fueling much of her (explosive obnoxiousness). I don't care about the dynamics causing her to be a shrill unlikable version of herself. I just abhor the transformation of this character into a totally unsympathetic lead.
Another problem that I had with this recent story featuring FBI Agent Winnett is the serial killer. It did not ring true to me that a malignant narcissist would be motivated by the examples of the American Dream that he saw around him. The reasons he "killed" were ostensibly to enlighten the world at large to the fact that they were worshipping at the alter of a false god, that the individuals were not "worthy" of their adulation. This appeared to be a
a rant against capitalism, genetics, luck, and realizing the American Dream. I was troubled by some of the innermost thoughts of our killer ("You have no clue how to get the right combination of factors playing in your favor, especially if you were born the wrong race or ethnic background , or if you indulged in one too many double cheeseburgers ").
I found myself wondering whether the rants of the killer reflected feelings of the author. The "killer" sounded like a liberal idealog. Finally, the big reveal about the identity of the killer was not believable. I had difficulty with accepting the motivations of the "serial killer" to begin with, and then the identity just added another layer of disbelief.
So---this installment of Wolfe's Tess Winnett series was a disappointment. It did not feel like it belonged on the same bookshelf as the prior three novels. Tess Winnett devolved into a character that was completely unsympathetic, and the storyline stretched credibility while also raising red flags about the ideology of the author. I do not want to see politics interjected into a book.