Investigating a suburban road with whole families dead

Cody McFadyen has written a short series of books about a crack FBI team and their leader Smokey Barrett. The Truth Factory is book five and the most recently published although there are some unfinished threads in this story so I am expecting that there will be a sequel. I wouldn’t start with this book – the first in the series is Shadow Man.

Smokey heads up a very small team of investigators within the FBI who deal with the most serious serial killers. From even before the very first book the author has inflicted considerable pain on this small group of people and especially Smokey. Smokey has lost her husband and child to a serial killer and been significantly scarred. Other members of the team have lost family members or had personal secrets revealed. I am sure that serial killers would probably want to have a go at the people who are trying to catch them but this seems over the top and this theme continues in this story.

In this book Smokey has remarried and is pregnant. She is obviously very aware of possible risks to her unborn child. She also has an adopted teenage daughter who came to her as the result of the case in the first book in the series and who has also been heavily traumatised.

The story starts with the discovery of a rotoad of houses where in some the whole family has been killed and the bodies displayed in a distressing manner. While the investigation is starting Smokey spends time with an elderly couple who appear confused and upset with what has happened when suddenly one of them kills the other and disappears. The team have to work out what is going on and how these people are linked. At one point Smokey is held prisoner and her life is in danger and the perpetrator reveals things to her that cause her to rethink events in her past.

The story is gripping and the author knows how to pace it so that you always want to know what is going to happen next. The events described are, however, gory and this is a theme of the books. I can just about cope with it but it reminds me of the books of Chris Carter which I also feel contain descriptions of gratuitous violence which I don’t think are necessary (see here for one I reviewed a year or so ago). As the book progresses and Smokey and the team find out what has happened it becomes more and more improbable that anyone could really do what one man is supposed to have done and have created a community and a place which has remained secret (the story has certain similarities to a serial killer novel I read last year by Chris Mooney which I review here – I thought that that one was farfetched too).

If you like a gory serial killer series then this is one to try but I am finding that with each new book the author has to shock the reader more which he does by increasing the level of gore and the threats to the main characters. I think that I might have reached my limit for these.

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