“I See You” by Mary Burton
Blurb: FBI special agent Zoe Spencer uses skeletal remains to recreate the faces of murder victims through sculpture. Though highly scientific, the process is also sensitive and intimate; she becomes attached to the individuals she identifies, desperate to find justice for each.
As Zoe examines old remains, she sees a teenage girl looking back at her—the victim in a cold case from over a decade ago. Zoe wants nothing more than to tell this young woman’s story and to bring her killer to justice.
Zoe’s case leads her to the victim’s hometown and to homicide detective William Vaughan, Zoe’s on-again, off-again lover. As the two become more involved in the case, they quickly realize that it isn’t as cold as they first believed: someone’s still out there hunting women. And with more women gone missing, time’s running out. Can they work together and stop this madman before he kills again?
This is not my first Mary Burton book. In fact, I’ve read quite a few of her books so far. I See You is the fourth criminal profiler book in the series. I will absolutely continue reading Mary Burton as I’ve quite enjoyed her books.
The story opens with a prologue of Nikki McDonald acting on a tip left for her on her website. Nikki used to be a popular news anchor (?) but she pushed one of her stories too far and was fired. In response, she set up a Crime Connection set up for the purpose of cold/hot case tips into stories so that she could earn her another job in television.
Acting on the tip, Nikki goes to a storage unit to find a “gray trunk.” She finds the trunk and what she finds inside the trunk kickstarts the story into high gear.
The story then jumps to the killer. He is sitting on the bed in a motel room eating a piece of pizza and talking to the woman he just killed in the bed next to him. It was a brutal killing and very personal. Not a lot is revealed about the killer, of course, it’s only chapter one, and you’re left wondering who is this guy and why did he just kill a random hooker?
And that’s it. We’re never inside the killer’s head again and it felt like unfinished business by putting that scene in the story. I would have like to see more of the killer as that would have helped me understand his/her motivation behind his/her actions. It felt out of place and forgotten.
Nikki calls the police about the contents of the trunk. Enter Zoe and Vaughan. Zoe is called in because of her expertise of reconstructing faces to make identifications and Vaughan is a local cop. They already have a history together as Vaughan attended one of Zoe’s seminars and they had a brief fling. The contents of the trunk turns out to be a young woman that had been missing for a number of years and her case eventually turned cold. Zoe and Vaughan figure out who the young woman is and they go to see the girl’s sister to get some more information about the victim and her disappearance.
Haley is the victim’s sister and her reaction to the news of her sister’s remains being found seems odd. So Zoe and Vaughan start digging a little deeper and soon, we’re immersed in this family’s lies and secrets.
A few more chapters in and something big happens at Haley’s home and both her and her daughter, Skylar, go missing. As they work on solving the case, it’s soon apparent this is tied to the girls’ remains in the trunk and to the girl the killer murdered at the beginning of the story.
Here’s why I gave it three stars:
- I like how I didn’t really see the killer coming until the very end.
- I like that Zoe and Vaughan have become a couple. Sort of.
- I think the sex scenes in the book were juust enough allowing some imagination on the reader’s part.
- I like how we saw the case from different perspectives instead of one perspective.
- I don’t feel like the killer was a logical choice, though I didn’t see it coming, it also didn’t feel plausible to me, at least, without some foreshadowing. I would have like to see more of the killer and his/her interaction and tendencies – I think I might have bought the killer a little more easily.
- I didn’t care for Nikki McDonald’s character in the story. I understood why Burton put her in the story but the story opens with Nikki and then she is sprinkled throughout the story. I think I would have liked it better if she hadn’t been in the story at all. Or just played a very minor roll in the story. Instead, her parts felt forced and quite frankly, annoying and too much time was spent inside her head.
- The rationale of the killer was weak. I get crazy, but usually crazy people have a reason for doing what they do, not just for the sake of crazy. Something put that person in a very dark place, I would have liked to see a bit more of the killer’s backstory, or at least a reason, for why he/she turned out the way he/she did.
- The pacing of the story was all over the place. Though I liked different perspectives, I would have liked sticking to primarily one perspective as opposed to it jumping from character to character in this story.
- The plot felt weak and this was not one of the better Burton stories, in my opinion.
First of all, Zoe was a Mary Sue character. She was a dancer, FBI special agent, artist, sculptor and a profiler. All of these are full time profession by themselves, and our heroine was all of them. The next problem I had was, even after having capability for being all this, she was dumb. She didn’t follow the necessary leads, she barely stumbled onto the killer’s identity, she confronted a killer without backup, and basically, the book would have been no different if she had not been in it.
Secondly, this book had very visible lack of research. Even after just watching crime tv shows, I had better knowledge than what was portrayed in the book. Leads that should have been obviously followed were ignored, forensic procedures were a joke, procedures and laws ignored when convenient, protocols not followed, confessions thrown out the window by lawyers or confessions acquired in front of lawyers (I don’t know which one is worse) … basically, the book was a mess.
This commenter hit the nail on the head. This also bothered me about Zoe’s character. She was a dancer, FBI special agent, artist, sculptor and a profiler. It all seemed too much for one character. How did one go from being a dancer, or an artistic type, to an FBI special agent? I’m not saying it can’t happen but it seems to be a stretch. The next problem I had was, even after having capability for being all this, she was dumb. Again, I agree. I feel like some of Zoe’s choices were dumb and happenchance. There were a few times I rolled my eyes. Especially at the end when she confronts the killer with no backup.
Really? That’s like the girl running down into a dark basement in a horror movie.
I’m not sure about the research part of the story, I’m not an expert in procedures and protocols, but I agree with this commenter again – it felt disjointed and unrealistic how they treated Mark Prince, the prime suspect.
I gave this story three stars instead of two because I have liked Burton’s stories up to this point and I know she’s capable of doing more. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this book as your first Burton read but just know, if you read this book, it’s less than satisfying when compared to her other work.
WARNING: if you read past this point, it contains spoilers.
Hadley’s killer turns out to be Skylar, her daughter. It didn’t seem realistic that a daughter, who supposedly loves her mother, would suddenly snap and kill her. Not to mention the strength required from a 17-year old girl to knock her father out of the way and then brutally stab her mother so many times.
Furthermore, I don’t feel like a 17-year old girl would call her mom and dad “mommy and daddy” -it felt contrived and forced and a way for the author to make the character younger than she was and more innocent than she was. That really bugged me. This disturbed girl knew exactly what she was doing.
Nikki questioning Jason and then Zoe and Vaughan questioning him again. It felt repetitive and again, why was Nikki involved? It felt more like Nikki’s story than it felt like Zoe’s story.
There was no clear, logical sequence of events. Mark’s behavior was especially puzzling. If he knew where Skylar was and what happened to Hadley, why go on national TV and beg for their safe return? Wouldn’t it have been easier to leave the police out of it entirely? That just put him in the hotspot which I guess he was willing to do to protect his daughter, and who’s to say what a person would do under extreme duress, but his actions felt unnecessary and likely added to throw the reader off track.
The fact that Jason could basically talk Skylar into killing her mother just didn’t make sense to me either. At least, in the time period it happened. It feels like that sort of breakdown would take years, not months, to achieve.
I also wanted to know more about the “incident” in Oregon that caused the family to move back east. Skylar clearly had a history of violence and though I understand Burton likely put that in the story to somehow justify Skylar’s actions, I wanted to know more because on the surface, it doesn’t sound like the incident was severe enough to cause her to completely break down emotionally and do something so heinous as to stab her mother repeatedly.
Also – the way Skylar stabbed her mother was quite similar to how Jason killed those other women. Did he coach her on how to do it? That seemed way too coincidental.
Lastly, the way Jason died … it felt very unsatisfactory and incidental – whose story was this anyway? Nikki’s, Zoe’s, Skylar’s, Hadley’s or Jason’s? It was too disjointed and discombobulated. It felt like Burton took several different story threads and weaved them together forming a piece of art that was both ugly and nonsensical.