Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “She was free. Free to love, free to be happy, free to live her life in the light.”
Former FBI agent Samantha Dark was one of the most respected profilers in the bureau, an expert on the twisted minds and dark hearts of the most depraved criminals. But when her own former lover turned out to be the serial killer she was hunting, Samantha’s career was destroyed. Blamed for the FBI’s failure on the complex case, Samantha fled Washington, DC, for the quiet anonymity of Alabama.
Now an all-too-familiar killer is hunting once again. She can catch the sadistic assassin, but that means putting her trust in her former partner, Blake Gamble. Ex-military, Blake is tough, protective, precise. With her entire life on the brink, she knows he wants her back in the FBI…and possibly more.
But someone else wants her, too. A threat is waiting in the dark, a killer who has set his sights on the ultimate trophy victim—Samantha. (goodreads)
After the Dark is the first installment in Cynthia Eden’s newest FBI romance suspense series, Killer Instinct. With world and set up that is similar to her Lost and Deadly series, Eden once again tosses us into the deep end of a dark and gritty mystery when a disgraced FBI agent must find and stop two serial killers; one of whom she has a very personal connection to. The story is easy enough to connect with as Eden uses the main protagonist’s memories and thoughts to lead us through a series of action-packed events that brings us up to date quickly.
Once you knew that monsters lived in plain sight, it was pretty hard to trust anyone.
Eden maps out the investigation and the police interaction in a clear and concise manner, allowing readers to share in each moment as they get closer to their quarry. Smooth and steady, Eden uses intriguing narrative and graphic scenes that allow us slip us into the minds of our protagonists and our villain(s). The psychological tension is brutal as Eden builds the ultimate cat and mouse game that centers around one person-former FBI agent, Samantha Dark. The action and suspense is a nail biting as s the plot picks up speed, leaving the reader on edge until the very last page.
Samantha Dark moved back home to Alabama after her humiliation and subsequent firing from the FBI. A brilliant profiler, a particularly brutal case takes Samantha down when she wasn’t able to see that her best friend and ex-lover was actually the Sorority Slasher-a serial killer she and her partner had been hunting for.
She said his name as if he were a stranger, and right then, he was. Not the man she knew. Not her ex-lover. Not her friend. He was a respected professional… He charmed his way past everyone’s guard. He was…a killer.
Samantha took her friend being a serial killer and getting away with it as an epic failure on her part and decided to make it her own personal mission to capture him regardless of the consequences. Emotionally subdued and brimming with a darkness all her own, Samantha feels her atonement can only come when an arrest is made and she can dig into his mind to see what she missed.
Samantha’s ex partner, Blake Gamble, tried his best to get the FBI to see that none of what happened was Samantha’s fault. Blake has always has wanted Samantha for more than a partner and her leaving almost broke him. Her intelligence, beauty, and cold exterior all scream for him to begs him to slow strip away all her defenses until there is nothing left but the sensual woman he knows is buried underneath. When it becomes clear that the Sorority Slasher is starting to kill again, Blake goes to Alabama, determined to push Samantha into helping him with the case and to finally act on the attraction that has always burned between them
He had the woman of his damn dreams in his arms, a killer waiting, but he also had hope. Because he had her.
Blake and Samantha are a delicious mixture of contrasts; adding depth and background to the main storyline. The romance holds a integral place in the story and Eden uses their scenes together to further flesh this couple out. The sexual tension between them is addressed right off the bat with an intense love scene that almost makes it hard to breathe through all the pheromones that seem to drift off the page. It’s chocked full of all the emotions they’ve kept buried between them. Samantha is an intelligent woman with a tragic past. She has secrets that she feels will destroy her and anyone around her if they become known. She keeps her emotional walls high in order to avoid any real connections. Blake also has some secrets but he has accepted those parts of his personality and channels it into his work. If I had one issue, it was that Blake doesn’t seem to flesh out as well as Samantha. I feel we never move past the surface with him while Eden dissects Samantha all the way to the bone.
A dynamic and fully vested cast of secondary characters keeps the suspense and intrigue flowing. Each character has a viable place in the story and adds personality, drama, and insight. Through them we are finally able to get the full truth behind what exactly happened to Samantha as a child and between her and the killer. The villain of the story is a true narcissist and sociopath whose dark desires and twisted fantasies all revolve around his feelings for Samantha and his complex need for her. I found his love for her to be both scary and sad. Eden does an excellent job of putting all his emotions on display and letting us see his true nature. Some may object to the fact we know who he is from the very beginning but I don’t think it takes away from the suspense or intrigue. Rather, it amps up the anticipation as you try to guess how this will all play out.
The ending comes at you fast and furious as the quarry is captured, questions answered, and the past finally put to rest. While this is the first in this series, there is a prologue, The Gathering Dusk, that introduces us to this world and sets up the background on Samantha, Blake, and other pertinent players. It is currently free on Amazon.