Narrated by Carly Robins
I saw some good reviews of the print version of The Hunting Grounds and I enjoy Carly Robins’s narrations so I requested this one for review.
Maggie Gaines is a 28-year-old park ranger at the Glacier National Park in Montana. Seven years before, she was, improbably, an FBI agent with the Behavioural Analysis Unit (the BAU – think Criminal Minds). I say improbably because simple Googling indicates that agents who go to work at the BAU typically have between seven and 15 years’ experience in the field. And Maggie went to the BAU straight out of FBI training school at age 21.
She was paired with legendary BAU analyst, Vic Sutherland. The case they worked on was particularly brutal and within a year she had burned out and left the unit and the FBI.
When a body is found in the park which matches the MO of two murders in other national parks within the past year, Vic and his BAU partner fly in to investigate. Someone is literally hunting people in national parks, treating them like prey; and that someone’s behaviour is escalating.
Vic and Maggie clearly had an attraction when they worked together. However, at the time, Vic was married. Though they shared one kiss, nothing else happened. Maggie has felt guilty about that kiss ever since because cheating. However, Vic is now divorced and the one bright spot in this case is that he gets to see Maggie again.
Vic’s history is also improbable. He is 34 and has been in the BAU for 12 years. Which means he was 22 when he joined the FBI (not allowing for training. And don’t forget that prior seven to 15 years’ experience needed to get into the BAU I mentioned earlier). However, prior to that he was a Navy SEAL. Again, simple Googling reveals that the earliest one can apply to be a SEAL is at age 18 and from basic training to full deployment takes about threes. Vic did serve overseas so he was deployed. Exactly how he fit all this in I do not know. Perhaps he knows Hermoine and borrowed her time turner?
Really, most of these issues could have been solved by aging up the main characters. If Vic was 45 and Maggie was 40 it could all have made so much more sense. I did start off questioning the world building as a result and this did limit my ability to sink into the story. I couldn’t help but wonder, if this stuff is wrong, what else is wrong?
That said, more Googling shows that Glacier National Park is portrayed faithfully and I was grateful for that. (Also, it looks really pretty. Well, apart from the whole murder business.)
The story has POV sections from both Maggie and Vic and also from Madison, a hiker who enters the park with a group of four others around the time that Vic arrives in town. Madison’s story takes place in both the present day and five years earlier. This took me a bit of getting used to but there was a reason for it.
The romance does take a backseat to the suspense in this one. The timeline is very short – only a few days – and the action is almost non-stop. The romance works because Maggie and Vic already know each other. Although in thinking about it now, I do wonder why they hadn’t been in contact for seven years (a shorter separation would have made more sense to me) if they had such strong feelings for each other. The listener arrives with the knowledge that Maggie and Vic already care deeply for one another so there’s not a lot of courtship. Still, the romance did work for me so that says something.
The story went to some unexpected places – not always for reasons which made sense to me – and Maggie does something near the end which heads into TSTL territory for my money. But there was real menace in the narrative and I only guessed the killer’s identity fairly late in the piece.
The other books I’ve listened to Carly Robins narrate have all been contemporary romance. I hadn’t really anticipated that my enjoyment of her performance would be linked to the subgenre of the book but it was. Ms. Robins did a good job of The Hunting Grounds but I do prefer her voice in a more upbeat contemporary romance setting – where there’s some humour as well is where she really shines. In terms of characterisation, tone and pacing, Ms. Robins did well and she did convey the building tension of the suspense believably. There is little humour in the book; it is all pretty high stakes and danger lurks in every chapter. Ms. Robins is more than competent for this type of story; I just feel she excels with snappy banter and zingy one-liners. Perhaps I’m being unfair and it’s just my own biases showing however.
Ms. Robins does drop her “g’s” – not in a country twangy “howdy darlin’” way but nonetheless words ending in “ing” sound like they end in “in”. While it didn’t bother me, I still had to get used to it and it may be an issue for some listeners. I guess try a sample first?
If a listener doesn’t mind a rubbery historic timeline and more than a little authorial license in the worldbuilding, The Hunting Grounds is a fast-paced thriller which I think will suit fans of Lisa Gardner or Karen Rose. While the romance component is secondary to the suspense, there was enough of it there for romance fans to enjoy and the narration was good – which certainly helped get me over some of the other issues I had with the story.
TITLE: The Hunting Grounds
AUTHOR: Katee Robert
NARRATED BY: Carly Robins
GENRE: Romantic Suspense
STEAM FACTOR: Glad I had my earbuds in
REVIEWER: KaetrinBuy The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert on Amazon EXCERPT: