Striking Back by Mark Nykanen
Publication date: February 2, 2012
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
These men like to hurt women. Now it's payback time for an unknown murderer who's slaughtering the abusers in ways that mirror the ugly violence they forced upon the women in their lives. Maybe the men deserve it. But as the death count grows-and media interest explodes-innocent people could get caught in the killer's revenge.
Los Angeles therapist Gwyn Sanders keeps her ugly family history to herself. More than twenty years ago, when she was still a teen, her violent stepfather died a grisly, mysterious death. Gwyn knows all the secrets but she's not talking about the past-she's too busy trying to change the future by breaking the cycle of domestic violence. The men she counsels aren't saints, but maybe she can change the mindset that makes their lives-and the lives of the people closest to them-so miserable.
But when someone starts killing her controversial clients, Gwyn becomes LAPD's primary suspect. After all, there's the unsolved mystery of her stepfather's bizarre death. Maybe Gwyn has a hidden desire for justice that's far from therapeutic.
Dr. Howard "Hark" Harken says he believes her. The forensic psychiatriest is an expert on serial killers, but a questionable death lingers in his own past-of a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Gwyn.
Being a counselor/therapist for men who abuse their partners or children is difficult. The difficulty increases when the therapist is a woman, especially one with a history of abuse. Gwyn Sanders has first-hand knowledge of what it's like to live with an abusive male . . . her stepfather. Now that members of her therapy group are being targeted, the police are targeting Gwyn and reinvestigating her stepfather's death. Unfortunately for Gwyn, several of her therapy subjects feel that she may be the "cause" of their fellow member’s death and the group members become even more violent, verbally at first, as more members die horrible deaths. Fortunately, the police soon realize that Gwyn is not the killer nor is she instigating the murders. But the questions remain who is killing off these abusive men and why?
Mr. Nykanen has provided a captivating thriller in Striking Back. The characters are all too realistic with their quirks and flaws. Although the acts of these abusers are despicable and hated, it is easy to feel a small amount of sympathy for them as they suffer through the abuse of the killer. The burgeoning relationship between Gwyn and Hark provides a softer side against the ever-increasing violence against the members of the therapy group. The story is filled with just enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing "whodunit" to the very end. Striking Back isn't filled with blood, guts and gore although there is a certain amount of violence; it is quite simply an extremely well-crafted suspense thriller.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."