‘UNSUB’ gets to the bottom of a serial-killer case


Meg Gardiner, an Edgar Award-winning author based in Austin, grew up in California — unnerved by the knowledge that a notorious 1970s serial killer, the Zodiac, could “strike at any time.”

“Today I’m spooked by the thought that the killer hasn’t been caught,” she writes on her blog.

Gardiner also is haunted by a serial rapist and murderer who struck closer to home. The villain known as the Original Night Stalker, also never caught, “murdered four people [in suburban Santa Barbara] a short walk from where my family slept.”

Gardiner’s new novel, “UNSUB” (Dutton, $26), is rooted in the grim reality that “monsters roam among us and we may never identify them.”

The book, launching a new series, introduces readers to Caitlin Hendrix, a young detective brought in to help investigate when a game-playing killer known as the Prophet resurfaces after 20 years. His calling card, the ancient symbol for Mercury, has been etched into the flesh of two victims.

Caitlin’s father was the lead detective investigating the Prophet murders two decades earlier and it left him a broken man. “This case will destroy your life,” he warns her. “Stay the hell away from it.”

Suffice to say that Caitlin won’t stay away.

TV rights to “UNSUB” (which is FBI-speak for “unknown subject”) have been sold to CBS.

Also new in bookstores

“Seven Stones to Stand or Fall” by Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte, $30). For “Outlander” fans who can’t get enough of Claire and Jamie Fraser, the author delivers seven novellas. Each is somehow connected to the “Outlander” universe. Two are published for the first time.

“Cocoa Beach” by Beatriz Williams (William Morrow, $27.99). This tale of romantic suspense is set in 1920s Florida. War widow Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives to settle her husband’s estate and encounters a sun-drenched society of infidelity and illicit booze.

“Sweet Spot” by Amy Ettinger (Dutton, $26). Ice-cream enthusiasts will enjoy reading about the forgotten history and heroic innovators of the chilled treat. But passages about Blue Bell and listeria (“the ice cream plague”) might compel some to switch to shaved ice.