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The premise here is really interesting, and it reads very much like a Criminal Minds episodewith both elements of the show I love and elements that bother me The good: Really interesting protagonist and killer Flashing between the perspective of the team and the killer Satisfying enough resolution The unrealistic The fact that Nina was still allowed to work on the case; she definitely had a conflict of interest and defense lawyers would have a field day with that The nobody wants to catch himthan me gets done a lot in TV, and it's fine, but a bit irritating on the realism front (view spoiler)[Nina not having a guard after the first abduction attempt It was clear he would try again and I doubt the FBI would've left her alone (hide spoiler)] Exceptional Police ProceduralWhile I have always enjoyed the old CBS police and FBI procedurals like all flavors of Law and Order, CSI, and Criminal Minds, in my reading, I generally prefer something a little softer like romance, cozy mysteries, and fantasy But every now and then I want to seek my teeth into a good police procedural When I looked at the choices for First Reads this month, I honestly didn't think I would choose this as one of my two options But the first 10% I read onhooked me The first scene that takes place 10 years in the past at the court as the heroine is becoming an emancipated minor and changes her name pulled me right into her story, even if it wasn't clear immediately right away all that she'd been through to get to that point She comes across as resilient and powerful even as a young woman.What I liked most about this novel is that the author not only crafted a brilliantly written police procedural, but she brought emotion in as well as the heroine is forced to face her past… a horrific one she would like to forget A lot of times in thrillers orhardboiled mysteries, emotion doesn't feel quite right in the story, but the author wove it in so deftly that this story would not be what it was without these heightened emotions as the heroine literally confronts her difficult past We see her struggle in such an honest and transparent way that is immediately relatable as she helps investigate a case that is so very personal to her The author has her walk that razor’s edge of emotion and professionalism very well Nina is such a strong, yet at times vulnerable, heroine—the best kind to keep you turning the pages Watching her trying to keep it all together while getting the job done was just so well done.The author has an extensive history in law enforcement, and that shows What we see of the FBI in this book comes across as so real, from the teamwork to the hierarchy I've often been disappointed with other police procedurals that didn't appear as though the author had a firm grasp on what life is really like at a police station or a branch of the FBI That made this book such a pleasure to read, despite its at times violent and gruesome story The author also had a very smooth and easytoread writing style, too, conversational at times with deep characterization Sometimes thrillers or police procedurals can sound a little stuffy Luckily, that is not the case in this book This book is also a statement about the effect of social media on society, even with something as abhorrent as sociopathic crime I don't know if a case like this has existed, but I can certainly see it happening given the prevalence of social media and how we can be drawn to check our social media often How the villain uses it could happen For me, too, it also made me think about nonviolent influencers and how much sway they have without actually doing much actual “work” of true value in our current society.If you enjoy police procedural thrillers on an occasional or regular basis, you will most likely enjoy this book as much as I did I look forward to the next book with our intrepid heroine!TRIGGERS: Attempted rape, physical violenceOther Issues: Occasional profanityMy book blog: Engaging and realisticIt's not often that I read a true thriller and get really hooked into the story, but that was definitely the case with this one Perhaps it's the author's background in law enforcement, but this has a very authentic, realistic feel to it While all of the case details can get a little dry, it makes for a read that is immersive and fascinating There's a compelling heroine and a modern element to keep things interesting, and the case is gritty and raw without being over the top gruesome.Essentially, the story follows Nina, a federal agent who went into law enforcement because of her own experiences As a teen, she was held captive and sexually abused by a man who has not been caught He's continued terrorizing other women while saying that Nina is the one who got away, so she's got a unique perspective as the FBI tries to track him down Nina's past clashes with her present in a very public way as the case progresses and the search continues.It's well done and interesting, becomingandsuspenseful as the story progresses Nina makes a great character and I really became invested in her story While there's definitely content that's difficult to read, the author does a great job laying out the facts without going into unnecessary detail about specific acts I loved the addition of social media into the case because it made everything seemrelevant and modern It's an interesting read and a true thriller without a romantic element, focusing on the case and the individuals involved. Thrilling Couldn’t put this down What a good read Intense from start to finish and with a heroine that felt so real and that I wanted to cheer on. One of my Kindle First choices of this monthI wasn't especially struck with it as it isn't really anything too unique A feisty female protagonist with a miserable, abusive past who now takes no nonsense from anyone She comes up again a killer some years ago and then has a further encounter in the modernday..I've read it all before I enjoyed it well enough and will probably try the next in this series, as I liked her trio of coworkers, especially Breck So it will be interesting to see where these characters go in future instalments, I reckon I also liked young Bianca a great deal.I was a little irritated that Nina chooses to live among her community in America Therein lies a big issue for me Why are there these communities all separate from the nationals, all speaking another language ?? Then they wonder why we have racism and dislike.same happens here She was born and raised in America, so the Latinas aren't really HER community at all !!There were quite a lot of Americanisms and acronyms I had to keep looking at, which is distracting..like I've got her six or Nina goosed the sleek black Tahoe and I didn't like the rat analogy she used She did mention an ankle tattoo on a captive, when we'd just been told that only her neck to waist had been shown in a picture and spreadeagled should be used and not the spread eagle she wrote but that was it for errors, which is impressive.I DID enjoy the legend of Florence Martus, though, and I googled the bronze, which is delightful I'd have scored 3.5* and would've rounded it up if it hadn't been so predictable and was a littleoriginal. Fans of the serial killer genre and police procedurals are gonna love CIPHER I can practically guarantee it.The subject matter alone should make it clear: CIPHER is not for the squeamish It involves the torture, murder and rape of children and teenage girls For those of you still interested, you are in for a real treat!I don't think I am going out on a limb here, when I say Isabella Maldonado's thriller, CIPHER, is every bit as thrilling, exciting, and engaging as Thomas Harris' RED DRAGON TRILOGY, which included THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS Maldonado may have borrowed from aspects of that earlier work, but she has made CIPHER all her own.The killer, both terrifying and complex, has nothing on his first victim, a terrified 16 year old Latina, who has run away from foster care Nina is determined to not only escape him, but to make something of life, that transcends her unfortunate childhood.11 years later, she is an FBI agent, when a video of her goes viral, exposing her new identity to the obsessed serial killer, who will forever see her as the one that got away So begins a cat and mouse game, with the CIPHER using social media to misdirect, cause chaos and embarrass the FBI, as they quickly make catching him their number one priority Nina's inclusion on the taskforce is both a risk and a benefit She is both incredibly strong and terribly damaged, as a result of her earlier encounter with the Cipher She can also be instrumental in drawing him out.The book moves along at a break neck pace, following the clues logically, and working well as a police procedural From the opening scene to the dramatic conclusion, this book draws you in and never lets up Even the minor characters are interesting, and pull the reader further into the story We are left wanting to know evenabout them, in particular, a neighbor of Nina's, a young girl in foster care, who a genius with a social media obsession All the main characters are fascinating and, for the most part, realistic, keeping the story interesting and personable Nina, is extremely empathetic and her fictional fans will, no doubt, be joined by real readers.Maldonodo' s experience in law enforcement, (including experience working with the FBI), and her Latina heritage really bring this story to life, elevating it well beyond most other books in the crowded field of serial killer novels I can't wait for the next novel featuring Nina Guerrerra, the Warrier Girl. Recommend this dark, gritty FBI procedural to crime fiction fans See caveats in review This is one of the darker crime fiction books I’ve read this year, but I have read much darker There are excellent synopses onand Goodreads, so I’ll go directly to review For those who aren’t fans of dark crime fiction, here are some trigger warnings: horrific child abuse, assault, rape, torture, murder, NSFW language, eugenics, etc What kept me reading was FBI agent Nina Guerrera, a complex and conflicted character, who survived a horrific childhood, went to uni, and became a cop Now as an FBI agent, she’s somehow caught the attention of a narcissistic serial killer, who begins killing young women who look like her To hunt him, Nina must dredge up childhood memories that she buried deep in her mind to protect her psyche.The plot is satisfyingly complicated with good twists, suspense and thrills I enjoyed reading about current FBI infrastructure, technology, and fascinating speciality skills—cryptanalysis, predictive DNA imaging, newtome computer investigative techniques, and forensics FBI settings are realistic, as are the policies, protocols and procedures I subtracted a star, because there there times when I really had to push myself to suspend disbelief For example, Nina Guerrera has PTSD from past traumas, which affect her performance, but her superiors don’t remove her from fieldwork Plus, where did the author get the name “Yakamura”? A video game? The Warrior Girl This was very good I loved the resilience of the heroine and her courage to take control of her life after years of abuse The evil Odin truly personified evil Her will to survive was so strong She was a perfect heroine I loved her neighbor Mrs Gomez and I swear I could almost smell the food she kept bringing to the heroine I totally want carne asada now and empanadas! And Bianca, the genius teenager and I am sure she will be featured in future stories and I do hope there areThe team with Wade, Kent, Baxter(?) And Nina were so interesting I want to haveadventures with them and I can't wait The ending was perfection That scene on The Yellow Brick Road was so amazing I could picture each one of them as a character from the Wizard of Oz helping Nina ease on down the road Excellent read Loved it Now I just have to find me some Carne Asada. THE CIPHER Puts A Modern Twist On The Serial Killer TropeFollowing the success of her Veranda Cruz series, author Isabella Maldonado introduces us to her latest heroine, FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera, in her upcoming mystery thriller, The Cipher.As a teenager, Nina managed to escape from a serial killer who was never captured Years later, Nina has built a career with the FBI But when a failed assault involving Nina is caught on video and goes viral on the internet, the serial killer takes notice and decides its time to finish what he started.The killer, known as the Cipher for his coded taunting messages left at crime scenes along with the bodies of young women, suddenly discovers that social media is a great way to fulfill his pathological need for attention Each gruesome murder, every social media post goes viral, leaving the Nina and her FBI team not only racing against time to stop the killer but also against amateur sleuthwannabes who want to be the first to solve the crimes and win a prize.I generally don’t read a lot of serial killer books because the trope has been so done to death and the stories too often devolve into “torture porn.” But I am a big fan of Maldonado’s Veranda Cruz series and knew she had the chops to create a story that is as fresh as it is exciting.That said, what really sets Maldonado’s The Cipher apart from so many other serial killer novels is how she explores our pathological craving for information and interaction, the way social media has changed the way we as people interact with the world, and the ways influential people can put their thumbs on the scales in ways most people cannot.And with Maldonado’s personal experience in law enforcement, you get a story that accurately reflects the reality of the culture behind the badge.If you’re looking for an exciting, edgeofyourseat suspense thriller, you won’t want to miss The Cipher published by Thomas Mercer The book comes out on November 1, 2020.I received a free advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. `FREE E-PUB ↽ The Cipher ☔ To a cunning serial killer, she was the one that got away Until now…FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera escaped a serial killer’s trap at sixteen Years later, when she’s jumped in a Virginia park, a video of the attack goes viral Legions of new fans are not the only ones impressed with her fighting skills The man who abducted her eleven years ago is watching Determined to reclaim his lost prize, he commits a grisly murder designed to pull her into the investigation…but his games are just beginning And he’s using the internet to invite the public to play alongHis coded riddles may have made him a depraved social media superstar—an enigmatic cyberghost dubbed “the Cipher”—but to Nina he’s a monster who preys on the vulnerable Partnered with the FBI’s preeminent mind hunter, Dr Jeffrey Wade, who is haunted by his own past, Nina tracks the predator across the country Clue by clue, victim by victim, Nina races to stop a deadly killer while the world watches