Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain have made Violet Darger into a bit of a standout in the serial killer genre, and the second book in the Violet Darger FBI Mystery Thriller series, titled Killing Season, pits our heroine against an unprecedentedly efficient and brutal maniac. In a span of two days an individual has murdered fourteen people, and it’s up to Violet to slide herself in his head, anticipate his next moves, and put an end to his reign of terror.
Table of contents
L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain Create a Reign of Fear
When living in a city alongside millions and millions of other people, it’s difficult for many people to imagine themselves victims of terrible crimes… or at the very least, they don’t spend their days thinking about it. The concept of safety in numbers has always been a popular one. However, in Killing Season by L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain (the second book in the Violet Darger FBI Mystery Thriller series), the citizens of Atlanta all collectively fall prey to a single man’s actions, essentially besieged by him.
On the first day, a sniper kills eight people along Interstate 20, the first one being a head shot straight through an SUV windshield. A massive pile-up ensued, and the first phase of the killer’s plan was successfully executed. Nobody even has the shadow of a clue about who the culprit could be, and he’s not intent on giving them any time to figure it out.
On the second day, the same killer goes out in the light of day, stalking a grocery store parking lot with a handgun. He manages to shoot dead six people along the store’s window before once again disappearing without so much as a trace. Needless to say, the killer’s plan has many more steps, prompting the authorities to call in Special Agent Violet Darger from the FBI.
By the time she gets to Atlanta, the city has derailed towards a quiet sort of panic, with entire streets and storefronts standing vacant. The once lively jewel of Georgia has been effectively turned into a ghost town, all through the actions of one man. There’s no telling who the next victims could be, and there isn’t a person out there who wants to find that out the hard way.
Time is running low, and there’s no telling when or where the killer could strike next, leaving Violet with little recourse but to put her psychological skills to use. She must try to enter the killer’s head and anticipate his next move before even more bodies start piling up, but considering she has virtually no evidence to go on, preventing more victims is a tall order… especially considering the maniac’s busy schedule.
Atlanta’s Great Peril in Killing Season
We tend to only think of cities in terms of names, locations, and perhaps size, but the truth is they are complex organisms comprised of numerous individuals, each contributing a tiny bit to the whole. While small changes to the organism can go unnoticed, big ones tend to have far-reaching ripple effects, and in Killing Season the authors put quite a bit of effort into depicting a city caught in the icy grip of fear.
Naturally, this novel is a thriller, and as such doesn’t rely on long descriptive paragraphs to get its point across. Rather, we get to see how the city and its people are affected by the maniac running loose through the various observations Violet makes, the many interactions she has with other people, and the considerations she must take into account over the course of her investigation.
While I can’t exactly vouch for the level of realism with which L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain depicted this scenario, to me everything seemed well-founded and well within the realms of possibility. While the reactions of most regular people might seem drastic, we can’t help but ourselves in their shoes, and at least mull over what our reaction to the situation would be.
I found it extremely interesting to see the impact the actions of a single person could have on millions of others, drastic as they might be. Despite the logically-tiny chance of being the next victims, human psychology and survival instincts make it virtually impossible not to give in to the fear, at least where the majority of people are concerned.
This backdrop creates an interesting setting for Violet Darger to work through, and something a bit different when compared with most of its peers. It also makes her fight against the killer feel much more personal, to the point where I couldn’t help myself but think of her as the noble knight who took up arms to slay the dragon terrorizing the village, but in a modern and realistic form.
A Maniac’s Secret
As I’ve mentioned it at the start of the previous section, with this book being a thriller, the brunt of the focus is indeed placed on advancing the story one way or the other, and letting the world-building happen as a natural result. If you’ve read the previous novel in the series, you know exactly what you can expect in terms of style here.
The investigation moves along quite rapidly, and this despite Violet facing obstacles and challenges at seemingly every turn she tries to take. I particularly enjoy the fateful moments in mystery stories where tiny and seemingly-insignificant clues are used to pull out meaningful investigative threads, and I must say that in Killing Season L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain absolutely nailed it.
It seems as if there is absolutely nothing for Violet Darger to go on, but nevertheless she finds the little hook to latch on to, and from there on out the investigation takes us on a wild ride with a couple of truly unexpected twists (especially the one near the end). The authors manage to provide a satisfactory explanation for the killer’s crimes, one which has an appreciable level of complexity going far beyond insanity or general disdain for society.
As a matter of fact, many of the chapters are told through the killer’s point of view, and I would just like to note here that this is one of those times where a book gains from having multiple authors. It’s quite clear one of them dedicated themselves to the villain’s chapters, making them stand out from the rest of the story, and really selling the idea we’re getting inside his messed up head which seems to exist on a different wavelength from everyone else.
Ultimately, he makes a worthy villain for Special Agent Darger to chase after, a rightful nemesis who actually makes the story much more interesting. Even though we know exactly who is going to win in the end, I couldn’t help but fear for our protagonist’s safety, death seemingly always being an inch or two from brushing against her shoulder. In turn, it made this serial killer thriller, actually thrilling.
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The Final Verdict
Killing Season by L.T. Vargus and Tim McBain is the perfect follow-up to the first book in the Violet Darger FBI Mystery Thriller series. Upping the stakes quite a bit, it’s a gripping serial killer thriller taking place in a unique and interesting setting, populated by an array of fascinating characters, and with plenty of twists to spare.
If you enjoyed the previous novel, or simply in search of an intelligent thriller focusing on the hunt for a serial killer on a rampage, then this is definitely the right book for you.
L.T. Vargus is an American author whose career has been spent, so far at least, co-writing various mysteries and thrillers with Tim McBain. Among the many works they’ve done together are the Detective Charlotte Winters as well as the The Victor Loshak Series, with lauded entries such as First Gone Girl, What Lies Beneath and Girl Under Water.
Tim McBain is an American author who has written numerous series alongside L.T. Vargus, namely Awake in the Dark, Violet Darger, and The Scattered and the Dead. Some of his more highly-appraised works include Dead End Girl, Killing Season, Five Days Past Mortem and Beyond Good & Evil.