Not Like Us (An Ilse Beck FBI Suspense Thriller—Book 1)

3 Stars

This is a very well written suspense thriller. I am that guy that watches serial killer documentaries and everything from NCIS to Criminal Minds so this was right up my alley. It starts off well. Someone, Dr. Beck, who has suffered through trauma then becoming a therapist who helps others with trauma and then getting sucked into a crime investigation while helping a client with a trauma identical to hers… what’s not to love. But as far as perfectly weaved stories go, the further I got into this story the less involved I became in it. It was very up and down overall. At some points I was on the edge of my seat and at others just annoyed.

One thing about the story that bothered me was the lead agent. Especially during one moment when he clearly arrests the wrong man on a feeling but even a novice could see all the evidence pointed to no. Just because someone is the scum of the earth doesn’t make them a killer. But the way he seemed to deject Dr. Beck and made it seem like her input wasn’t as spot-on as he knew it was but rather a regular observation was odd. Most detectives at the first sign of knowing they are way off base would’ve just cut their losses and let the suspect go. There’s a serial killer on the loose wasting time on wrong hunches is counterproductive. The main thing though is the way he acted towards the other detectives is frustrating because if no one wants to work with you and you have dead bodies popping up how you planning on finding the killer without adequate support? Ultimately his supposed demotion didn’t hold weight. When you added all the evidence the author piled for him, he read like he deserved much worse than he got. He definitely deserved the punishment and nothing in the entire novel hinted at anything to support he may have been unjustly treated.

The pieces in this story were laid out well. The plot flowed at a pretty good place. For a just under two-hundred-page book it probably took me about six hours to get through this and I’ve struggled for over a week with much shorter books so that’s a good thing. Dr. Beck reacted in weird ways sometimes that required a bit too my suspension of belief. Like when she went up to the first suspect’s house the author crafts really good reasons why it’s the wrong man, however when she confronts the dismissive agent what she says instead is he’s too overweight to be the killer. What happened to all that clearly thought-out observation made outside of his house? Then, if she’s really trying to help someone, why does she leave her alone instead of taking her with her to get food and then in the same breath saying that she cares about the victim/client takes a detour that could get her killed on some elaborate hero mission when she herself suffers from an abusive past she can’t even remember.

Now to the memory loss. On the surface, it reads well. But the ending undid all that. The memories she does have of her father are clear, amazingly clear. Yet that is all she remembers. The story reads like she was huddled up in a basement tortured by herself. But, as far as I know, three other people were in there with her. The reason Stockholm Syndrome is a thing is because when sharing a traumatic experience over time a bond is created between captive and captor. On that same token, when locked in a basement most victims will bond with each other as they either lose hope, continue to think of ways to escape, or simply resign to their fate. They are sharing a trauma together and it is the only thing they know. Abuse is their one joining factor. It’s easy to believe she can forget specifics but after years of the same torture with three other witnesses forgetting them also is a big ask. They were, quite literally her only friends and reason to live. Forgetting what was done to her as a way to protect herself is easy to get on board with, but the room it was done in was her only world and she shared it with three people. I don’t know but it was extremely hard to believe she forgot the other humans immediately after escape. Especially when she needed help to escape in the first place and when bad memories of interactions with her father, the other human besides the four, seem so vivid.

This brings me to the end which begins at around 73 percent. This is not an exaggeration. There was so much talking, so much reveal, so much ‘I’m sorry I can’t remember’, that it took an entire quarter of book for the it to end. That was a lot of pages. I skimmed a good chunk of it only to find in the next chapter the book was still ending, and then again and, sigh. There were only so many times the same reveal could be rehashed and up until this point there were no real pacing issues, but the ending took forever and once I knew what was happening the longer it took to happen the less involved I became until I was just ready for it to be done. And as a therapist, it’s really hard for me to believe that she could not assess the situation well enough to know you can not talk a serial killer out of killing. I groaned really big at this bit of plot.

Honestly, I knew who the villain was, but not the serial killer. I definitely do not mind cause two deaths is not enough so that killer still at large is a big yaaaaay to more murder and mayhem. Knowing is a non-issue, it’s the how and conclusion that matter and once the payoff happened and I was like ‘yes I knew it’ dragging it on for so long killed my elation. Also, there is no way Beck couldn’t know how the killer still out there is related to her. Especially after another ending reveal that I can’t reveal. There’s enough plot spoilers in this review. My problem with her ending decision is specifically plot-related.

There’s no cliff-hanger in this book which I love. The ending ties up nice and leads into the possible next cases. But based on her not coming out and saying the truth about the ending of this book it makes me think one thing, it’s not happening in book two either. Almost as if the pull to keep reading the book hinges on Dr. Beck continuously refusing to come out with who she is and how it’s related to the murders. For me, I’m not that interested. I’m more interested in the bond she makes with the detective and how this helps her deal with her past as she solves other cases. This, however, is going to take a long time and more people will die because of a few simple sentences she won’t say. Because, obviously, a non-detective going up against a serial killer on her own is the best thing to do. This is also something a successful therapist thinks is the smartest option.

For the most part, this story was good. The pacing was on point. The suspense great. It was an all-around decent thriller. As far as recommending it, it gets a high recommendation. Fans of suspense thrillers will love this, some may even be surprised by the twist ending. But for me, the monologing at the end went far beyond your typical villain speech, and Dr. Beck made some odd choices. And, the best thing about this book, the killer only got to kill two people. Yes, I’m hating that there weren’t enough deaths. At least three would’ve made that plot angle seem more real.

There was just a little bit too much suspension of belief required to make this work in some parts, that on top of the long ending left me feeling a bit frustrated in an otherwise excellently written book.

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