Published: Pan Macmillan, 2008
ISBN: 978 1 4050 3826 3
First line: The voice is deep and smooth. 'Agent Sophie Anderson?'
Australian FBI profiler Sophie Anderson, on her last day at FBI headquarters at Quantico before transferring to the Los Angeles field office, is given the task of showing crime author Loretta Black around the facilities. She finds Black to be rude and overbearing, and is glad when the tour is over.
Within days of Sophie's arrival in Los Angeles, Black is found murdered in bizarre circumstances. She has been killed in exactly the same way as the victim in her latest book. It doesn't take long for Sophie to link this crime with the murder of another crime author several months earlier in San Francisco. She too had been killed in the same manner as one of her fictional victims.
When another author disappears in circumstances similar to the plot of her most recent book, Sophie is involved in a desperate race against time to catch the killer before he can kill again.
FAN MAIL is the third book featuring psychic FBI profiler Sophie Anderson. I have to admit that I don't normally like woo-woo in crime fiction, and Sophie's psychic ability initially made me wary of this series. However, thankfully Martin has resisted the temptation of having Sophie have a convenient vision and voila! - crime solved. Actually there was one such moment, relating to a side plot, but I didn't mind that instance as I'd already figured it out for myself some time before without any psychic intervention!
Rather Sophie's visions help provide her with a better picture of the victim and the crime scene, and she combines this with the more usual profiler techniques to build a better picture, more quickly, of the perpetrator. She chose to transfer to a field office so she could make better use of her psychic abilities at crime scenes when the details are likely to be fresher and her visions stronger.
Alongside the main plot, the finalisation of the investigation from the previous book, THE MURDERERS' CLUB continues. I would recommend reading the earlier book before starting FAN MAIL as it contains significant spoilers. As we follow the course of the investigations, a lot of detail about investigative and forensic procedures is included and, while mostly interesting, it sometimes gets a bit tedious and has a tendency to slow down the story.
It takes a brave crime author to write a story about a serial killer murdering crime authors! But luckily Martin had no such qualms because FAN MAIL is good fast paced thriller with an interesting and unique character in Sophie.