Cassie is viewed as trouble. Her dad is across the world and her mother is missing, presumed dead. Cassie lives with her extended Italian family while her dad is away and one day when a young stranger leaves a business card for the FBI, her usual mundane life has an element of mystery. This card attracts her interest in that she may finally gain some answers about her mother’s disappearance 5 years ago.
The chapters alternate between Cassie’s life and the narration of a serial killer [be warned, 14 and older]. Cassie is a “natural” a personality type the FBI is searching for of young teenagers with natural abilities – profiler, mind-reader, statistician, emotion-reader. Now Cassie’s ability, trained by her mother’s influence seems to have a real purpose. As she goes to D.C. under the ruse of a specialty government school, her FBI training begins, but for Cassie there is always the haunting reminder of her mother’s absence. Her desire to learn the truth about her mom leads her to join this special group of the FBI, trained by real FBI agents.
Cassie and the four other “naturals” she is being trained alongside focus on their specialties also while trying to deal with typical teenage relationships, crushes, grudges, and confusion. Soon, of course, Cassie’s past and her mother’s death become key elements to a current serial killer’s traits and murders. When Cassie begins receiving anonymous “gifts” from the killer, the FBI and The Naturals must all hone their abilities and work together to protect Cassie and catch the killer – before the killer gets Cassie.
It ends up being a good mystery and the “Naturals” are all interesting characters with good backstories. I’m interested in if the series remains as dark as this first one with the plot of a serial killer or if there will be a variety of types of cases. Also, will Cassie ever get the real answers surrounding her mother’s disappearance?
On a side (and fascination note) Jennifer Barnes is a professor of psychology, has a PhD from Yale, and has advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science. This definitely adds a level of respect to the series and her darker characters.