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Snuff by Melissa Simonson (FBI SSA Maxwell #3)

Snuff by Melissa Simonson is the 3rd book in the FBI SSA Maxwell crime mystery series.

There are 4 books in this series (with one more to be published later), however having read the 3rd book, I can definitely say at least this book can be read as standalone novel, as there is hardly anything that is connected to the previous ones in the series, and everything we need to know about the main characters is well defined here.

Having said that, I’ll definitely get the previous books as well, because if they’re as good as this one, I’ll be in reading heaven for quite some time.

This book is for the lovers of what we call (and pardon my foul language here) “sick shit genre”. This crime mystery sub-genre includes books with twisted and sadistic serial killers, with scenes that people usually can’t stomach without at least flinching when reading. And of course with the cops (or the FBI) constantly chasing them, to find them and put them behind bars, or even better, to put them out of their miserable existence. So a small warning here: this is definitely not a cozy novel.

I’ve just finished reading it and my blood pressure is still up there, skyrocket high, and not sure when it will come down again. I was hooked from the very first page and when the book ended, I was sorry to see it go. However every single page was truly a satisfying read, and the ending was just as well done as the rest of the novel.

We have pairs of girls gone missing, who after 3 weeks of probably endless torture, either end up dead or if alive, will commit suicide. The pain of those who survived is so strong that they can’t live anymore once they’re free again.

The case belongs to a cop, sergeant Lisette Jennings with the LAPD, who is in the hospital sitting next to the bed of the latest survivor of this ordeal, Brooke, who – if the patterns of the past holds – might just be one step away from committing suicide as well. Jennings is well aware of this, and doesn’t let Brooke out of her sight even for a moment, while also trying to find out as much as she can from the girl about who did what to them.

This is when FBI agent John Maxwell enters the picture. He is requested by the LAPD to assist the case (actually to take over) so that the series of sadistic crimes finally ends.

Interestingly enough Maxwell and Jennings work well together the solve the crime and there is no real animosity between the two of them (as is usually the case when a cop and an FBI agent meet together in a case). Both have important contributions to bring to solving the horrific crimes and each acknowledges the part that the other plays in it. I didn’t find some major chemistry going on between them, so there was no real romantic aspect to their working relationship (which is a relief, in fact).

The story alternates between Brooke remembering and telling her story in captivity (first person point of view), and John Maxwell’s 3rd person’s POV. Usually I am annoyed by such transitions, but not in this book, where somehow they went over quite seamlessly.

Brooke’s story is chilling, horrifying and nail biting (I think I’ve bitten all my nails while reading the book, I’m in strong need of a manicure now). And because of that terror that we feel when reading Brooke’s words, we need that lightened atmosphere that John and Lisette bring while the focus is on them searching for the killers. We need that break, else the dark mood would take completely over and it would become something like a horror novel (a genre that I don’t much care for).

After reading the first pages, I was strongly reminded of the movie Saw, which if you’ve watched it, really borders on horror. However even Brooke admits during her time in captivity that her situation is akin to that of the people trapped in Saw’s room. And for what it’s worth, I figured out quite soon what really was going on and why the survivor girls would actually commit suicide merely hours after the kidnappers let them free. Still, this didn’t lessen my morbid fascination with actually reading the pages.

The main characters are really well fleshed out. We have Lisette, John, Brooke, Abby and even Jack, Brooke’s fiance, all nicely portrayed, humans with real feelings and their constant need to help others. Then of course we have the killers and the author doesn’t spare a single moment of kindness towards them. If there is anyone who is portrayed as a flat 2D character, it’s the kidnappers and killers, and with good reason. She doesn’t want us to like them either – and we don’t.

Overall Snuff by Melissa Simonson is one heck of a book, a great read, one that I won’t soon forget. Because of the strong feelings and emotions that it invoked in me along with the gripping entertaining hours that I spent reading the book, Snuff deserves full 5 stars from me.

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