Right Behind You (FBI Profiler), by Lisa Gardner

This new book (January 2017) brings back retired FBI profilers Pierce Quincy and Rainie Conner.

In the small town of Bakersfield, sitting between Portland and Salem, Oregon, a sheriff responds to a gruesome murder of a man and a woman at a local gas station. The security cameras show a young man coming into view after the shootings and looking at the security camera with an expressionless face before shooting the camera. After identifying him they go to his home where they find his foster mother and father dead in their bed.

There’s now a desperate search for a young man who, eight years earlier, beat his father to death with a baseball bat after the drug-crazed man stabbed his wife and attacked his son and daughter. Because it was considered self-defense the boy wasn’t tried. Instead, he was put into a series of dismal foster homes and separated from his sister.

The sheriff calls in retired FBI profilers Quincy and Conner hoping that they can help predict the killer’s next steps. They haven’t been on the case long when they learn that his last name is Nash, the same last name as the foster daughter Sharlah Nash they are about to adopt.

The narrative in the book switches between a first-person perspective of Telly Nash, the killer on the run, the first-person perspective of Sharlah, and a third-person perspective on the manhunt through the coastal forests of northwest Oregon.

Telly’s story is a tragic one of a young boy who doted after his sister, taking her to the library to read to her. After the death of both parents Telly and his sister are passed from one hideous foster family to the next in parallel lives until both land in what seems to their “forever families”.

Much of the first half of the book concentrates on Telly’s story and the manhunt, but as Quincy’s and Rainie’s investigation progresses they gather information that gives a whole new perspective on the deaths from the apparent spree killer.

It’s a book that’s both exciting and emotional. The last foster families for these siblings seem to really offer a healing environment for both of them. After the killings Telly is tracked through the woods by volunteer local trackers and heavily armed SWAT professionals. They keep up a close trail on Telly, who always manages to stay several steps ahead of them as he makes his way through the forests with guns his foster father owned.

I haven’t read any of the earlier profiler books, but Quincy and Rainie complement each other well. Quincy is quiet and thoughtful while Rainie is richly intuitive. They have a great partnership and they bring these same qualities to their parenting of Sharlah. I may end up digging through the older Gardner books to learn more about them.

Gardner says she polled readers about who should be included in her next book and was surprised that the profiler team won over other favorite characters. She says the spree killer concept came from one of her husband’s law enforcement magazines, as did some of the “philosophy” of tracking criminals. She also boasts of her preference for “lazy” research though she clearly spent a lot of time learning about the procedural details in the book.

There are good hints about the final turn in the mystery but the exact details were surprising all the same. A fun mystery, a good adventure, and an emotional story about family and the hazards of drug abuse all in one very strong book.