It Takes One by Kate Kessler
Redhook: April 26, 2016
Source: Free From Publisher
It Takes One is the series opener featuring criminal psychologist Audrey Harte. The twist in this thriller is that our heroine is a murderer herself.
Okay, so the label is a little more complex than that.
When she was a girl, Audrey helped her best friend Maggie murder Maggie’s father. Maggie’s father had been sexually abusing her and Maggie turned to Audrey for help. When no one believe either of them, the girls, in desperation, hatched a plan. After the murder both girls were charged. Maggie was sent to a criminal hospital because of her trauma, and Audrey was sent to a juvenile detention centre. And with that, these two best friend slowly drifted apart until one of them committed an unforgivable transgression. Now, years later, Audrey is a successful criminal psychologist, but she certainly hasn’t put to bed the demons of her past. When she returns home to her remote and insular hometown to visit family, Audrey is quickly swept up into the frustrations that she has left behind: her alcoholic father, her resentful sister, her judging neighbours, and her devious former friend. When Maggie is found dead after confronting Audrey at a bar, Audrey is quickly assumed to be a person of interest. After all, Audrey is a woman that has killed before. Determined to uncover who truly murdered Maggie, Audrey launches her own investigation, and she uncovers more than a few hidden truths.
It Takes One was a book that I couldn’t put down. I was never sure if I “liked” the characters but I was darn sure that I wanted to read more about them. The fact that I didn’t necessary like Audrey or any of the other characters is a point in the novel’s favour. Audrey and her actions as a girl and as an adult are morally ambiguous. Audrey is both a crusader for the weak and a murderer. There’s an innocence about her but also a harshness that’s impossible to ignore. This complexity of character is transferred over to many others in the novel, even the police officer investigating the murder isn’t a black and white character. I loved this ambiguity. Did it make this an easy read? Not always, but it did make it a thought-provoking one.
While I found It Takes One bizarrely fascinating because of its main character and her past, the present that Audrey lives in is also fascinating. It’s clear that a lot has changed since Audrey left home. Her childhood friend and crush, Jake, has made it big, owning a huge chunk of land in the area as well as a number of successful businesses. As Audrey notes these changes, she’s also aware that many things are still the same. So many people are unwilling to see past the veneer and to judge based on past transgressions or on only what they can see. It’s soon clear that there is much more going on below the the surface in this small, rural, and remote small town.
If you’re a fan of mysteries that have a more psychological bent to them, It Takes One is a sure bet. Not only are readers introduced to a truly compelling and fascinating character, but it is also a refreshing change from a genre that embraces the more authoritative hero. Audrey is no cop with procedural prowess, but she does have first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to commit a crime, and it’s that sensitivity that makes this a unique read.
Like Audrey, Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder also has a tortured past. As a young woman, Kate killed the man that attacked her, and her family hid the murder. Now as the police chief in small community the service the English and the Amish, Kate tracks down murders and hopes that no one discovers what happened in her past. Start with book one, Sworn to Silence.
If you enjoyed the remote community of Audrey’s hometown, Sarah Graves’ Lizzie Snow series is a great follow-up read. I certainly don’t want to move to rural Maine, but it does make for a compelling setting. Check out my review of book one or book two.