The Mindf*ck Series by S.T. Abby
The Two-Sentence Series Description: Serial killer Lana is busy avenging crimes from her own past when she chance-meets Logan, the righteous FBI profiler tasked with finding the killer. She is torn between finding justice (continuing the kills) and finding peace (a happily-ever-after with her agent) amid her conflict about whether a HEA is even possible should she allow Logan to find out the truth.
Series? Yes (must read all 5 books to reach the single story's conclusion)
Genre: Dark Romance/Horror Romance
Primary Tropes: Tortured Heroine, Alpha Heroine, Protector Hero, Law Enforcement, Revenge, Return to Hometown
Secondary Tropes: Forbidden Love, Mistaken Identity, Scars
What Makes It Stand Out: This book has uncommon literary mastery, from complex characters who are fully-realized, to a well-executed, intricate plot, to tension and pacing that are just right. We suspect that this is not the work of an amateur, but maybe of an experienced author who is trying on a new genre under a different name. Despite this unconfirmed suspicion, we think the work being written under this name (which the author has admitted is a pen name) needs to be found.
What You’ll Love About It: As a crime story alone, this book would stand strong, but S.T. Abby weaves a flawless love story into the folds. Readers are taken on parallel journeys: the romance is one you’ll be rooting for, despite suspicions that it is doomed; the second is the unraveling of a series of intricately committed crimes and the comeuppance of dozens of townspeople who concealed them.
The righteousness of vigilante justice is the core theme of the book and we are constantly reminded that the only difference between Lana and Logan is that he carries a badge. They both hunt bad guys. They are both justice-seekers. They both feel to their core that what they are doing is necessary and right. A cast of supporting characters, from Lana’s computer genius partner in crime, to Logan’s FBI colleagues who have their own reasons for sympathizing with criminals whose ends justify their means, add skillfully to this conversation.
Yet, the towering strength of the book is the characterization of Lana, whose cold-blooded and methodical torture of her victims will make you admire her poetic justice at the same time as it makes you cringe. In many ways, it is a deep study of psychopathic behavior, one that aptly points out that killing your tormentors may be a logical response to being violated, challenging black and white thinking that is present in so many lesser books.
Despite Lana’s ruthlessness, she commands empathy, and you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to it is easy to connect with her as just a girl who is in love with a boy. The detail is astounding. This book is so well-put-together as a crime story that you will feel as if you have just stepped into a better version of CSI.
Truisms, Complexities, and Other Themes: This series has a “Twin Peaks” quality to it. It deals with a small town full of people who don’t want the interference of outsiders—yet, everybody knows something; everybody nurses understandable allegiances; everybody has something to hide. Similar to FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, S.T. Abby’s agent, Logan Bennett, maintains dedication to his manifest while connecting to the human element. Like “Twin Peaks”, this book shows the dark side and light side of every single character, a fact that inspires the deep investment of the reader, who is inspired to empathize with nearly every character.
The Standout Side Character: Every great book has a secondary character who stands out. In this series, it is Hadley, whose personal history as a survivor of her own violence disposes her to being compromised. For a good part of the book, she acts as a double agent who sympathizes with Lana's work and helps her using FBI resources.
Our Prediction: We think this book (and this author) will get big, and we love the idea of the story being optioned for television or for a movie.