The Killing Season by Mason Cross

Description: The first thing you should know about me is that my name is not Carter Blake.

When Caleb Wardell, the infamous 'Chicago Sniper', escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialized talents whose skills lie in finding those who don't want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger. Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.

But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets' nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.

Slick, fast-paced and assured, The Killing Season is the first novel in the gripping new Carter Blake series.

The Killing Season is a great first novel and a great summer thriller. The action starts out fast with a prison break during a prisoner transfer. When convicted serial killer/sniper Caleb Wardell is freed, the bodies start to pile up fast.

Mason Cross does just about everything right with this book. Both the killer and the man tasked to chase him down are intelligent, which makes it exciting to follow the chase and watch them try to anticipate each other. Carter Blake is a bit of a cypher but his status as an outsider leads to wariness from the FBI team he’s assigned to help. It also frees him from bureaucratic entanglements in hunting for the killer. The nice touch here is that the FBI is not portrayed as a bunch of bumbling idiots, but as what it is; a bureaucratic organization with skilled people but one that has to answer to multiple masters and try to accomplish multiple goals. They have to anticipate and cover several possible striking spots for the sniper and track down every lead. Blake is able to follow his instincts. His skill earns him respect and some degree of trust, but it doesn’t free the FBI from the responsibility to cover all contingencies. Agent Banner learns to trust Blake’s skills and instincts but at the risk of her own FBI career.

The scenes of the kills by Caleb Wardell are tense in their buildup and exciting when they explode into action. The gunfights are intense and will have you turning the page as fast as you can read. Cross does a great job of conveying the panic that is felt with a sniper on the loose, especially when no one is sure of his next target.

The added level of complexity in this book is when it becomes clear that there is another agenda at work here beyond Caleb Wardell’s own twisted one. This secondary hurdle for Blake to overcome adds to the enjoyment and satisfaction as the book races to its conclusion.

The Killing Season is a great start to a new action series and Mason Cross is an author to keep an eye on. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

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