Rated Reads

The Naturalist (The Naturalist Series, book 1)

by Andrew Mayne

Rated: High

Dr. Theo Cray is in Montana doing field work before the fall semester starts back up at the university where he teaches in Texas when he gets brought in by the police as a suspect in a young woman’s death. He remembers her from when she was an undergrad in some of his classes but hasn’t been in contact with her. The authorities interrogate him and spend more time analyzing the situation and conclude that she was killed by a bear. Theo, who specializes in “bioinformatics,” using the tools of computational science applied to biology, is relieved to no longer be implicated in the killing, but as he looks into the details himself — with his personality and training, he can’t help but gather information and see patterns — he becomes convinced that a person, not a bear, killed his former student. But as he gathers information and some supporting evidence and presents it to the police, they don’t believe him.

So Theo decides to stay in Montana a while longer and do some evidence-gathering on his own. He figures out some ways to use a computer program he designed to map out probabilities of where a killer may have committed similar crimes, which went unnoticed or unsolved or were chalked up to animal attacks. As time goes on, he finds more and more young women, but either local authorities don’t believe his evidence points to a serial killer, or they start thinking he’s a killer himself, or he gets himself in trouble with locals.

As his search yields more bodies and more information, he still doesn’t know how to catch a killer. As he does start thinking of a way to track down a prolific and elusive killer, he ends up in much more danger. How much can a computational biologist with not much in the way of resources solve old crimes and prevent more from happening?

This book really got me hooked, where I couldn’t put it down. The pacing was just right and the mystery of who the killer is and how he could have been on the loose without anyone even noticing for years was page-turning. I also really enjoyed that it was intelligent; like good science-based novels such as Michael Crichton’s works, it provided mini lectures on various topics that were pertinent to the story. My only frustration with the book was how many f-words it contained.

Rated: High. There are a solid 35-40 uses of strong language, as well as some more uses of moderate language. Sexual content includes a few vulgar references as well as one sex scene that starts with some kissing and goes into a touch more detail past that but then “fades to black,” so to say. Violence is heavier toward the end, with shootings and other close combat. Throughout there are mild to moderate descriptions of bodies that have been injured viciously by claw-like/knife-like attacks.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Naturalist (The Naturalist Series, book 1)
  • by Andrew Mayne
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: