The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

I love biology. Therefore, any fiction story that has biology in it will capture my attention. I also heard very good things about this novel from other reviewers, and that finally made my decision to give this book a try. Here is my review:

Professor Theo Cray is a computational biologist who uses computer programs to look for patterns in nature. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As the details come to light, the cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly bear gone rogue .. or Theo himself. But Theo sees something that the cops are missing. Something unnatural. And as more mutilated bodies turn up, Theo is convinced that only he can stop these horrific deaths. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?

So this book starts off by introducing the reader to the most unlikely protagonist: a socially awkward, intelligent, and complete wuss of a professor. I loved Theo’s character because he was so unique; I don’t think I have ever encountered a personality like his for a protagonist. The author does a really great job of explaining why Theo is the way he is and why he becomes a suspect in the investigation. I really liked Theo’s actions in the beginning, as he goes off feeling responsible for his former student’s death and trying to figure out who is the actual culprit. I really liked the scientific jargon but I know that I’m in the minority here; for a lot of people not obsessed with biology, this book can be a little jargon-heavy. However, the author does a good job of explaining the concepts as they pertain to the story. My problem with this novel began around the middle point, once Theo discovered that the program he was using to track related deaths was working incredibly well and he started discovering more bodies. There was no real emotional connection; it was literally just him digging up bodies and sending in alerts to the cops, who really didn’t do anything. And I didn’t really buy into the logic of how all the cops didn’t really care and it was just this wacky protagonist who was out there doing the good stuff. I also didn’t like that the stereotypical themes in other stories (drug trafficking, corruption, etc.) got tied into this story; it was supposed to be a unique and original plot and now, you’ve got elements that weren’t necessarily needed and that stop it from being original. As the book reached its finale, I just found myself overwhelmed by how ludicrous everything was. There is a certain amount of logic I am willing to throw out of the window – but not this much. I began this novel feeling very excited, and I found that it was to my liking until I reached the halfway point, where it just began to go down. I’m giving this a 2/5 stars because the beginning was really good and I loved the protagonist, but I don’t think I will be continuing on with this series.

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