After The Dark by Cynthia Eden
is a psychological thriller intermingled with some romance.
This is the first book of the “Killer Instinct”
series. The premise of these novels is very unique in that
they involve someone in law enforcement knowing a serial killer.
The author takes the realistic studies of law enforcement
to a step beyond. Research has shown that FBI profilers actually
speak with serial killers to understand their motives in an
attempt to quickly capture future perpetrators. The protagonists
in this book, through their special relationship, are able
to see the killer in a way others cannot. Through the characters,
readers are drawn into the dark minds of these psychopathic
Eden noted, "Research is my favorite
part of writing. Over the years I have talked with FBI agents
and psychologists. My go-to book is the MindHunter: Inside
the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas. I think
Netflix is doing a TV series on it. This is by the guy who
started the behavioral analysis unit. Each chapter talks about
the mindset of a different killer the FBI went after. It details
the body language and the psychology of these infamous killers,
the many faces. I have the book on my desk constantly. This
is why I had Samantha try to think like a killer, to get into
The plot is “Colomboesqe” in
that readers learn early on who is the serial killer. Yet,
this does not prevent them from being on the edge of their
seats. The twists have the hunter turning into the hunted
as the killers play a cat and mouse game with law enforcement,
becoming a game of wits.
The story begins with FBI profiler, Samantha Dark able to
get into the killers head and to understand their motives.
She left the FBI after being thrown under the bus by her boss
for failing to find the serial killer. Accused of letting
him get away because the murderer was a former lover, Samantha
moves back to her hometown in Alabama. After a tape surfaces
her ex-partner Blake Gamble pleads with her to help him find
this sadistic assassin. When it becomes obvious she is the
ultimate trophy victim Blake uses his ex-military skills to
protect her. Together they try to outwit these evil and sadistic
people and find them before they continue their killing spree.
The author commented about the main characters.
“Samantha is smart; yet, has trust issues and because
of that keeps secrets. She is a conflicted heroine because
justice matters most to her and she does not always see the
world as black and white. I explored with her how it is truly
hard to know someone, especially those who do not fully open
up. We only know what people show us, basically what is on
the surface. After losing her job she lost her self-worth
and had a hard time keeping that image she wanted to present
to the world. Regarding Blake, he is very different from Samantha
in personality. He is all about law and order. What you see
is what you get.”
The two antagonists were written as psychopaths. "I wanted
to make sure they did very bad things. Dr. Cameron Latham
is Samantha's former friend who she had an intimate relationship
with. I think he cared about Sam and knew she was the one
person in the world he could relate to, his anchor. He was
never impulsive and always had a plan. Unlike Cameron, his
apprentice Jason Burke was driven by emotion, and was unable
to control himself."
Eden also thinks the setting played an important
role in the book. "Fairhope, Alabama is the place where
I grew up. My editor tried to get me to revise some of what
I wrote about this place, thinking it was unrealistic. But
everything I wrote is real. In this town, more people have
boats than cars. I love the water and do own a boat. It is
a ‘boatcentric' area. I wrote in the book about air
boat rides because it is one of my favorite things to do."
The intensity of the plot is not only with
the mystery, but it also comes into play with the chemistry
between Blake and Samantha. The passionate love scenes leave
little to readers' imagination. But this is also true of the
gruesome descriptions of the crime scenes where the perps
kill for sport and experimentation, to find how people react
when they know they are about to die. They enjoy dishing out
pain, making the victims suffer as they lose hope, and play
G-d, deciding who shall live and who shall die.
Because she enjoys writing books with romantic
suspense and taking readers on a thrill ride she has her stories
with a darker plot. Her next book comes out in May, part of
her "lost series." Eden gave a heads up about her
next projects, "Lost stands for Last Option Search Team.
These civilians' job is to find missing people after the case
has gone cold. This will be the last book in this series because
I wrap up one before another one begins. My next book in the
‘Killer Instinct" series will have Samantha and
Blake as supporting characters. She is the supervisor of a
newly assembled team who recruits only those who have a connection
with serial killers. This book comes out in July and will
feature FBI Agent Tucker Frost whose brother is a serial killer.
I think it is really fun to explore this theme."
After The Dark gets readers hooked
from page one. Eden does a wonderful job with the character
development as she allows readers to get into the minds of
the antagonists and protagonists. The tense atmosphere created
with the brutality of the murders makes the plot very suspenseful.