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The Naturalist #1

The Naturalist

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Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.

As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?

382 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 1, 2017

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Andrew Mayne

59 books2,263 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,353 reviews
Profile Image for Liz.
2,022 reviews2,525 followers
September 21, 2018
After my last, very meh, audiobook, I was happy to read The Naturalist. This one engaged me from the get go. Dr. Theo Cray is a computational biologist. To me, he seemed a little bit on the asperger’s spectrum. Extremely intelligent, definitely obsessive, but lacking a little in the emotive or self preservation factors. At one point he compares himself to Don Quixote and it’s a very apt description. They are both tilting at their own individual windmills.

He comes to the police’s attention after the gruesome murder of a previous student of his. What are the odds of two scientists from Texas being in the same area of Montana doing research? But her death is ruled due to a grizzly bear mauling. Cray however, sees something else at play.

I love that Mayne treats the reader’s intelligence with respect and gives us lots of science info. The book is almost stream of consciousness. We’re inside Theo’s head and a lot of interesting facts and theories reside there. Who knew that dolphins attack sharks when they’re incapacitated? There’s almost a contemplative feeling to the book as Theo spends a lot of time pondering what happened and how things connect.

You’ll need to suspend your beliefs here. But it’s an interesting ride so I was willing to do so.

I listened to this book and it works very well as an audiobook. I find a have a much more visceral reaction when listening to graphic scenes than when reading them. So there were lots of times I was twitching and flinching.

There’s already a book two in this series out, which I’ll happily check out.

Profile Image for Michael Hicks.
Author 35 books433 followers
April 18, 2018
If Dan Brown wrote a CBS-style crime thriller, it'd probably look a lot like Andrew Mayne's The Naturalist. It's big dumb fun, quickly paced, and routinely threatened this reader's willing suspension of disbelief with a number of inanities, ridiculousness, and just flat-out stupid plot points. The Naturalist is a highly readable work of fluffy entertainment, one that is strangely compelling but also not very good.

Professor Theo Cray is a bioinformatics researcher, and when one of his former students is found dead in the woods, he's the prime suspect until forensics lead authorities to believe she was mauled to death by a bear. Thanks to a case of mistaken identity, Cray is inadvertently given blood samples of the victim, which allows him to engage in some lone-hero forensic shenanigans that lead to the discovery that the bear hairs belong a tagged animal that died more than a year previously. Unable to let the case go, Cray uses his specialized knowledge in bioinformatics and learns of a number of missing women. Soon enough, he's on the trail of a serial killer who has somehow stayed off the grid for thirty years and may have killed hundreds and hundreds of women.

If none of the above gives you pause, The Naturalist might be right up your alley. In order to discuss why The Naturalist didn't work for me, though, I need to point to some specifics, some truly bugfuck, batshit moments of high implausibility that really had me scratching my head. As such, I'm issuing a big SPOILER WARNING from here on out. Consider yourself warned.

Throughout The Naturalist, Mayne spares hardly a single thriller trope to get from point A to point B. We have the lone wolf hero who police refuse to even listen to, let alone believe, and who are perfectly content to ignore the discovery of all these butchered women. There's a hooker with a heart of gold, and the small ex-Army waitress hottie who, despite Cray's social ineptitude and naivete, still wants to bang our mousy, intrepid researcher. At some point in these types of thrillers it's a sure bet that our lone wolf hero will eventually be targeted by police as Prime Suspect #1. Well, Mayne begins the freaking book with that tired old trope, and then pulls it out of his butt a few more times throughout for good measure.

Cray's doctorate and research has allowed him to learn a whole lot about a very small subject, leaving him oblivious to pretty much everything else. As he confesses a number of times, he doesn't know a lot about people. He can't read social cues, doesn't pick up on innuendo, and can't even decipher a text message from a hooker that reads "1004BJ". This cluelessness is, perhaps, meant to give Cray an easy pass by readers so that once he starts digging up dead bodies all across Montana and texting photos of the corpses to police, even going so far at one point as to load a murder victim into his SUV and dump the body off at the local police station, we're supposed to just accept this level of idiocy as par for the course.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get over these hurdles, even as I watched with stony bemusement as Cray half-asses his way into stealing evidence, snatching a corpse from the morgue, and destroying crime scenes one right after another. And despite his reputation for these shenanigans eventually preceding him everywhere he goes, the police response is typically a bemusement equal to my own. After dumping a corpse off at the police station, Cray merely has to give a statement and is allowed on his merry way to go pilfer another body.

The amount of WTFery is nested like Russian dolls throughout the entirety of The Naturalist, right down to its over-to-top, laugh out loud, implausible finale. Look, Cray is decidedly not a tough guy. He's a bookish nerd who gets beat up multiple times by various people, and Mayne still would have us believe that this guy is able to single-handedly take on an apex predator of a serial killer, a killer who has gone all Terminator in the book's final moments. Somehow, despite being shot three times and having previously been beaten unconscious and having his jaw fractured, Mayne still expects us to believe it's plausible that Cray would think, in all-caps, "I'M GOING TO TEAR THIS GUY APART!" and go all Wolverine beserker rage on a massive, bloodthirsty murderer.

Did I mention I found this book utterly ridiculous? Because I did.

That said, The Naturalist is stupidly entertaining but also perversely fascinating, and the scientific backbone Mayne weaves throughout is really interesting stuff. The research and thought processes that Cray brings to the table helps bring a measure of seriousness to an otherwise inanely written story, and Cray's eye for detail in the natural world is well done, lending a surprising amount of credibility to his field work. Unfortunately, when Cray isn't in the field and Mayne isn't focused on wowing us with science, the story takes some pretty steep nosedives.

Readers expecting a serial killer thriller in the vein of Silence of the Lambs would do well to look elsewhere. If you don't mind a silly, check your brain at the door, beach read that's more comic book adventure than serious, well-studied suspense, you might do all right with this one if you keep expectations firmly in check. The Naturalist is ultimately pretty stupid, but at least it's entertainingly so. I didn't much care for it in the end, but I at least got my $3 worth of entertainment, and Mayne keeps the pacing cranked up to a high page-turning level. I found myself wanting to know how things were going to shake out, and morbidly curious as to just how much sillier it could get.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,559 reviews2,312 followers
December 11, 2017
The Naturalist (The Naturalist #1) by Andrew Mayne is a book I really enjoyed. It fed my eager science side of my brain, the mystery, and the side that likes a good scare! Brilliantly written with so many little things that had to be thought through...wonderful. Going in my favorites for sure. Lots of suspense, action, mystery, and the science part of it was fun too. I love these kind of mysteries.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews992 followers
October 5, 2017
Definitely the most addictive read of my year so far, borne out by the fact that I started this last night then finished it this morning - no messing. I literally only put it down to sleep.

For a start how wonderful to find something a bit different - I can't say I've read a book before where the main protagonist is a Computational Biologist - the author makes this sound entirely fascinating and if you have a love of finding out small random facts like I am you'll love the little titbits you find throughout this novel. Not sure that Theo, our scientist, ever expected to use his expertise to track a serial killer nobody else will admit exists, but that is the situation he finds himself in after the death of a former student pulls him into an entirely different world.

The Naturalist is a genuinely thrilling "serial killer thriller" with a scientific twist - the story fairly rocks along as Theo goes a bit lone wolf, albeit a rather less testosterone fueled one than you would normally find in this type of story, using his background and science geekery to seek out patterns and probabilities. That side of it is cleverly engaging, there is plenty of action besides and a hidden killer who will chill your soul. There are some intensely creepy moments in The Naturalist that made me jump at shadows a little and a real sense of menace all the way through. The ending is edge of the seat madness in the best way, a real blow out finale that rocked. From first page to last this was all the excellent, not a single boring moment. Brilliant.

I see this listed as a book one - I have to say I'm extraordinarily pleased by the thought that Theo will be back. I loved him as an anchor to the rest of this tale, in fact all the characters within were brilliantly drawn and absolutely compelling, I hope to meet a few more of them again too.

The Naturalist has excellent plotting, offers up a different perspective within the crime drama and who knows - perhaps Computational Biologists are the new Profilers - we'll see but on the basis of this book those writing within the crime genre might want to up their game. Seems there are ways to teach an old pony new tricks after all.

Highly Recommended.

Profile Image for Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine).
189 reviews223 followers
February 13, 2018
You can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.

Note: I originally posted that I was giving this book 3.5 stars. Upon further consideration, I've given it 3.75.

There are so many things I loved about The Naturalist! First, there's our main man, Professor Theo Cray. He's a computational biologist. So basically he's a little nerdy, very smart, and, because he's now been drawn in to a murder investigation, a bit of a rogue Magnum, P.I. I'm not one for bookish crushes but if I were, he'd be a candidate.

Next, there's the plot. What starts out as one dead woman, who happens to be a former student of Theo's, turns into multiple dead bodies. The crime scenes are gruesome. The victims appear to have been slashed to death by bear, mountain lion, or something else that's not quite human. The police are frustratingly unwilling to listen to Theo's opinions regarding who or what may have killed all of these women. This forces Theo to strike out on his on own quest for the killer. His scientific knowledge lends an element that I've rarely read in this genre. He uses biology, anthropology, botany, statistics, and computer algorithms together in order to locate the bodies and predict where more may be located.

As far as pacing goes, I found The Naturalist to be an absolute page-turner. I read it in one day. I loved that the chapters are short and the action moves along steadily.

I did have a couple of small issues with the book. The first is relatively minor. I found Theo's grief over the former student who had been killed to be greater than I would have expected. That may seem insensitive but they'd only had a professional relationship and they hadn't spoken in years. The second - and you know I'm a stickler for this - is plausibility. Particularly as it relates to the ending. I won't give it away because it was quite imaginative but, as a nurse, I must admit I rolled my eyes more than once. I actually think the final scene would translate very well in film but it just seemed a bit too much as I read it on the pages. In my opinion, this is a classic case of an author's brilliant imagination being both a blessing and a curse. Had the ending been dialed back a bit, I'm sure I could have given this book four to four and a half stars.

This is the first book in The Naturalist series. I am very much looking forward to reading the next book.

3.75/5 glasses of wine

Many thanks to Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Linda.
1,227 reviews1,276 followers
July 17, 2018
"What is research but a blind date with knowledge." (William Henry)

And Professor Theo Cray of the University of Texas at Austin knows research up close and personal. He's an MIT graduate specializing in computational biology. Analyzing data and constructing models brings Theo eye to eye with biological, behavioral, and social systems. Funny how such lofty studies might shine a light on a recent dead body.

Andrew Mayne starts his story out with a bang. Theo Cray's motel room in a small town in Montana is under fire by the local police. Cray is roughly tossed to the ground and handcuffed with no clue as to why. An empty ice bucket lays on the ground next to him as the only reminder of what "normal" was in the past tense. Here on out, chaos and mayhem will rule the days and the nights.

Theo is finally told that a former student of his at UTA was found dead in the forest not too far from where the motel sits. His Texas plates are a dead giveaway in the parking lot. Through hours of interrogation, Theo is finally allowed to leave. As the days go by, it is believed that Juniper was killed by a grizzly. A grizzly is taken down by a local hunter nearby with a single shot. End of story you say. Not so fast.....

It's this hyper analytical nature that spins the wheels at a roaring pace within the mind of Theo Cray. Hell bent on finding out what really happened to Juniper, Theo visits the scene and is convinced that Juniper's demise was due to the two-legged variety. But convincing the local police is like dragging thousand pound stones up the sides of the pyramids. An impossible task, but one in which Theo is willing to take on.

As Theo implements computer analysis and his hardcore familiarity of botany and ecosystems, he begins to unveil some crazy off-the-wall theories. We could be in for more dead bodies and a possible serial killer here, Boys and Girls. WooHoo!

Mayne brings in plenty of science around the campfire in The Naturalist. He does it in such a way that the reader is not overwhelmed, but pleasantly piques interest. In order to totally enjoy this wild ride, just sit back and let this story unfold. There may be a few camels slipping through the eye of the needle here and there, but it's full-on entertainment. The ending is chock full of adrenaline pumping action in which an adult beverage may be warranted. Good stuff.

The Naturalist is the first book in this series. I've already grabbed the next one. A well thought out storyline with high interest. Let's see what double trouble Andrew Mayne will drop Theo into down this curving road. Binoculars optional.

Profile Image for Michael Slavin.
Author 7 books228 followers
October 1, 2021
5,000 Amazon Reviews 86% 5 and 4 stars
23,000 Goodreads ratings 4.08 stars avg.

Very good, very interesting, and very different! You get to learn a little science as you watch a mystery and the process of trying to solve multiple murders by an awkward professor, Theo. The police suspect him, then ignore him, but they won’t believe him.

After a very exciting opening scene, where it appears a woman is killed by a bear, the book slows down (not in a bad way) into an investigation. The book holds your attention and then explodes with a very action packed back end to the book.

Highlights of this really good book:

-Very interesting main character, Theo, a reluctant hero.
-Very strong female character that was watching his back and she owns a restaurant/truck stop in the middle of nowhere (and can handle a gun).
-Lots of hicks.
-Takes place in Montana-Not many people there; lots of woods and unpopulated areas and you definitely feel that in the book
-Multiple brutal murders
-Bear attacks or serial killer? 300 possible bodies or more
-Lots of science weaved into the book, including how closed systems show patterns that the untrained observer would probably not notice
-You feel like they may be chasing bigfoot at some points

Not your typical crime/thriller, but I loved it. As I said, this is something different. I will read more from this author, for sure.

Strongly recommend!

Mike Slavin
Author of award-winning thrillers Kill Crime and Primed to Kill,Kill Crime 2
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
October 23, 2017
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/10/23/...

I spent a day last week stumbling around in a sleep-deprived stupor because I had been up late the night before, and it was all this book’s fault since I’d refused to put it down until I was finished. Totally worth it, though. Talk about a page-turner! The Naturalist was exactly what I wanted out of a mystery-thriller—fascinating, addictive, and dramatic in all the best ways. It also captivated the science geek in me by featuring a protagonist who uses the study of plant and animal behavior and physiology to solve crimes, his specialized knowledge allowing him to spot patterns where others cannot. Think The Da Vinci Code, but with biology.

Our story begins as computational biologist Theo Cray gets a call from the police while on a field research trip in Montana. The body of Juniper Parsons, one of his ex-students, has been found in the woods near a small town, and the cause of death appears to have been a rogue grizzly attack. However, Theo is not convinced, recognizing unnatural signs in the evidence. Despite the terrible claw marks and the traces of fur on the victim, he’s not sure that whatever killed her was even an animal. More likely it was a man, he insists. Killing like an animal.

Unfortunately, the police are no help, especially once Fish and Wildlife Service puts down the bear believed to be responsible for the savage attack. Knowing that his former student’s true killer is still out there though, Theo is unwilling to give up and decides to conduct his own investigation, uncovering a disturbing pattern of missing persons reports and mysterious deaths that go back for more than thirty years. All the incidents happened in or around the state of Montana, many of them involving young women. In the cases where remains were recovered, the mutilated bodies all displayed the same kind of claw marks found on Juniper Parsons. Following a trail of clues, Theo begins finding more victims and knows he’s getting closer to the truth, though inevitably his efforts draw unwanted attention as the police start suspecting Theo himself.

The Naturalist is the perfect thriller novel for the science lover. Yes, it can get a little farfetched at times, requiring the reader to simply roll with it, but with a story this enthralling and irresistible, you’d be surprised at how much I’m willing to let slide. A couple of minor plot holes and a few dubious moments were not enough to detract from the enjoyment.

Another amazing thing about this book is its protagonist. Theo is a professor in an extremely esoteric field, so he’s always having a hard time getting others to understand his evidence or how he’s getting his data. It also doesn’t help that he’s a bit socially awkward, and his brain is wired to think in a very different way than most people. In spite of this though, I found him remarkably easy to relate to—and not just because of the shared interest in biological sciences. Above all, Theo is driven by a sense of duty towards his murdered student, and while his guilt and emotional self-punishment may have been a tad unfounded, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic towards someone whose heart is so genuine and in the right place. He attacks his mission with indefatigable zeal that almost borders on obsession, but you’ve also got to admire his persistence, especially when he finds ways to get creative. While Theo is highly intelligent, his doggedness and complete lack of street smarts often leads to solutions with successful results but appalling side effects.

Then there’s the plot, which sank its hooks into me and dug in deep. The story’s tone and style are arguably similar to that of most thrillers, but like I said, this novel had a scientific angle to it that made it special. A good balance of action and suspense kept the pace swift and strong, and some of the more mysterious and atmospheric scenes were even touched with a hint of horror. The final chapters of the book, AKA the section that had me devouring the pages at the expense of a good night’s sleep, were so intense and insane that I doubt I could have stopped reading even if the house was burning down around me.

Man, I really hope I won’t have long to wait for the sequel, because it does appear The Naturalist is the first book of a new series. Cleverly addictive and hugely entertaining, this book had me hanging on every word from start to finish. If I’m reading a lot more mystery-thriller these days, well, it’s because of books like this, and I can’t wait to read more from Andrew Mayne.
Profile Image for Ami.
304 reviews60 followers
September 18, 2017
I was pleased to choose this for my September Kindle First but in the end, I must admit to being quite happy I hadn't paid for it. It had stereotypical cliched cookie-cutter people with inane flat conversations and a story full of plot holes and dangling threads. IT WAS ALL TOO EASY! What makes this doubly disappointing is that it actually started out quite well, but it began going downhill at about halfway and by the end had degenerated into madness. If it had been a hard copy vs. a digital copy, I would have been sorely tempted to fling it across the room.
Profile Image for Kenrick.
97 reviews6 followers
September 5, 2017
As a lifelong biology writer and amateur naturalist, the protagonist in this novel rings extremely hollow. The author claims to love science -- and I've no doubt he does -- but he should have spent more time in the research and editing phase making sure his protagonist sounded like an actual scientist and not just a weird Big Bang Theory-esque parody of one.The core conceit isn't a bad one, but it comes across as hackneyed in execution.
Profile Image for Bernie.
14 reviews
September 10, 2017
Stereotypical protagonist, stereotypical antagonist, plot holes galore, interesting, if questionable, science, and first person narrative in the present tense rather than past tense. An interesting read except for disappointing final chapter or two.

Personal rant: I hate plot summaries that end with a question. Will he be able to do this before that happens? Makes me lose interest in the book. Stop. Just stop.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,725 reviews12.8k followers
March 29, 2021
Andrew Mayne has proven his versatility within the crime thriller genre by putting out a number of highly intriguing series with unique spins. This in the third series that I started, hoping that it would pack as much punch as the previous two. Mayne does well by introducing Professor Theo Cray and developing a unique means by which of analysing the forensic area. When a former student appears to have been attacked by a bear, Cray arrives in rural Montana to offer his insights. While he believes the authorities at first, he soon realises that the attack was cover for a brutal murder. Using some of his academic knowledge, Cray uncovers a number of other bodies and is sure there is a serial killer out there, eyeing many others and hoping to blame the fauna for the deaths.

Very few people understand Professor Theo Cray or the academic realm in which he finds himself. A computational biologist, Cray studies the systems in which things live and analyses them on a high level to extract themes or norms that few others see. When he is approached as a potential suspect in the death of a former student. Cray goes on the defensive and is soon able to convince the authorities in rural Montana that the death is attributable to a bear attack.

However, as he explores the injuries and the location a little more, Cray second-guesses himself, discovering another body soon thereafter, that of a local drug-addled prostitute. While the police are sure it was a case of intoxicated bad luck and hungry wildlife, Cray is not so sure. He tests his theory by analysing the area and providing some data that leads him to a number of dump sites. While they are covered to appear like temporary spots for future feasting, Cray is sure this is a killer marking their territory.

He goes out on his own to look into the lives of these women who were killed and what connection they might have. From there, it’s a slow and methodical trip through the evidence of the potential killer’s life and mind, in hopes of discovering something that will lead the way back to the person who has been acting so strangely.

While Cray pushes harder, he is indirectly targeted by the killer and must take drastic measures to protect those around him. It may be the only way to save others, but will it mean the end for Professor Theo Cray before the killer is truly revealed? Chilling and fast-paced, this is one series debut that will leave readers demanding more in short order.

It was just over a year that I was introduced to the world of Andrew Mayne and his unique take on forensics within the crime thriller genre. Now, with a third series crossing my path, I cannot get enough of the author or how he interprets crime novels. This unique approach has me wanting to know more and demanding something that stands out from the large collection of novels that supersaturate the genre.

Theo Cray is nothing, if not unique. His approach to life and the study of biology has him sought after and a pariah at the same time. He knows what he loves and pursues it, but few others can actually comprehend what magic he has at his fingertips or how it can be used effectively. With a little backstory, Cray presents himself to the reader as both an academic and a passionate man, one who feels emotion, even if it gets tangled up in computer printouts and analytical data. His passion when he starts something is on display throughout this piece and there is so much more I hope to learn as the series progresses.

Andrew Mayne does a masterful job with his other characters, forming the story around those who find themselves emerging throughout the narrative. There is no lack of action or real progression throughout this piece, something that helps keep the reader enthralled with how things are going. Taking a snapshot of the rural Montana community and the locals as part of the murder investigation occurs with ease as Mayne crafts characters who are relatable and realistic for the reader.

While Andrew Mayne has been able to dazzle with his writing before, he never ceases to amaze me with his approach to crime thrillers. A crisp narrative that pushes along throughout the story, there is something for everyone in this piece that offers up some refreshing approaches. Readers who devour novels in this genre will like the uniqueness that Mayne offers, adding depth and intrigue while keeping the reader on their toes. Short chapters coax the reader to push further, if only to see what awaits them around the next bend. While Theo Cray is unique and somewhat awkward, his mental processes are proven and his is definitely an asset to those who utilise what they have before them. I am eager to read more, subtlely comparing the other series as I go.

Kudos, Mr. Mayne, for a brilliant launching point in what I have heard is a great series. I cannot wait to see where you will take your readers next!

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Brenda.
725 reviews148 followers
September 1, 2019
What a wonderful surprise this book was! This is the kind of book I can’t put down, not even to eat or make a cup of coffee or sleep. Well, I did fall asleep last night, but you know what I mean.

I’ve always loved the sciences and have participated in many scientific data collections and studies. I banded Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds for ten years. I have read many non-fiction books about birds. This book entranced me with the analyses that aren’t too technical. I loved the logical explanations. Dr. Theo Cray is quirky and smart, introspective, socially awkward, and lovable. I’ve picked up the second book already!
Profile Image for Nancy Gold.
17 reviews
September 6, 2017

Awful. The author was a magician and probably good at that job. A believable story teller, he is not. Too many quips, too much attitude, too much pseudo scientific facts mar this story. On the very first murder he forgot to tell you what happened to the boyfriend of the murdered girl who was camping with her. Too much blood to be believable. Please go back to being a magician.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,435 reviews828 followers
July 30, 2018
This was a slam dunk of a 5 star read! Very funny, also geeky on the science, clever, fast paced. I should have been able to read this in one go but it was all so exciting I had to keep putting it down! If you’re looking for a quirky original thriller, you don’t get much better than this. #Theo Cray for President
Profile Image for Jonathan Maas.
Author 26 books320 followers
September 14, 2017
I loved this book, and though there were some flaws - they had soft edges to them. In short though:

* Michael Crichton-esque. A lot of authority here - and you'll be smarter after reading it. I alternated between this and Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, and didn't feel bad about jumping away from Harari's non-fiction.
* A page turner - beyond a page turner
* Great use of data and data-trends as a way of tracking the bad guys
* Likeable character - he has flaws, but they make you like him - really easy to like

* Mild con here - but be warned that this is a mystery where everything the main character does turns into something bigger - every hunch, every action, every offhand comment - leads to a clue to solve the mystery
Profile Image for Shainlock .
737 reviews
May 23, 2018
Oh wow! I really enjoyed this. I loved the science and the main character’s thoughts were easy to understand. He was smart. For a while I was like ok, you are pushing your luck!!!
But he was intelligent and I just loved the science in this and how he used what he DID KNOW to find out what he DID NOT.
Can’t wait to read the next.
Profile Image for fleurette.
1,355 reviews113 followers
July 27, 2021
About a year ago, I read the second book in this series and was absolutely thrilled. Since then, I have read two other books by this author from his other series. They were just as good. But finally it's time to read the first book in this series. The one where Theo's story begins. And let me say that I was not disappointed.

This book has two great elements - an extraordinary main character and a very good storyline. Theo is a computational biologist. But not only his profession is fascinating. He is a very complicated character with a fascinating personality. He doesn't quite think like an ordinary person. He also has the remarkable ability to apply his scientific knowledge to problems in other fields.

The plot is also very interesting. Not only is the action very fast and there are lots of twists and turns. But I also liked the overall idea which is quite innovative. The murderer kills his victims by trying to disguise an attack from a wild animal, and he does it very convincingly and effectively. I like this formula very much and I think it worked well.

I don't know how much of what the author described in this book, especially when it comes to research and scientific theories, is true, but it all seemed very reasonable and made perfect sense. It made a very coherent story and rooted the story in the modern times.

This is not a book for sensitive readers. There are several scenes of violence, but also unappealing descriptions of bodies in varying degrees of decay. Everything is described in fairly detailed clinical language through the eyes of Theo.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good and unique thriller. As for me, I plan to read other books by this author as well.
Profile Image for Jim.
562 reviews85 followers
February 2, 2020
This was the first book by Andrew Mayne that I have read. It probably won't be my last but I am not in any big hurry to read another one. It was entertaining and if you like the mystery / suspense / thriller genre you probably would enjoy this one but it wasn't anything that grabbed me.

Professor Theo Cray is a computational biologist who is in Montana on a grant doing a study on something. Frogs? Whatever. The story opens with him heading to the ice machine at the motel where he staying when the police swoop in and bust down the door of one of the rooms. His room. He is apparently a person of interest in the death of a former student who happened to be in the area. He is taken to the police headquarters where he is questioned. At some point it is determined that the former student was killed by a bear. You can go now Theo. Sorry for the inconvenience. I have never been in this situation but I think most people would breath a sigh of relief and just go. Back to Texas (Theo is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin). Anywhere but Montana.

Theo is not satisfied and decides to investigate further. He singly handed starts finding bodies. All apparently classified as bear or mountain lion attacks. Analyzing the data and using computer models he detects a pattern and determines these are the work of a serial killer who has gone undetected. In the process Theo keeps bringing attention to himself to various law enforcement agencies in Montana. They alternately consider him a suspect in the deaths or someone with mental issues. With the help of a waitress at a local diner he decides to find out who the serial killer is. School and the start of classes can wait.

This was an entertaining story if you are willing to go along with the ride and suspend belief. I actually found myself liking Theo and cheering him on in his Don Quixote quest. I would be willing to read other books in the series at some point if only to see what the future holds for Theo. It is hard to imaging that he will still be a professor the University of Texas at Austin after this.

Profile Image for Fred Shaw.
562 reviews42 followers
July 7, 2018
The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne, Kindle edition.

Dr. Theo Cray is a professor of biogenics and uses computer models to determine how biological systems react given certain criteria. In Montana, while conducting a study, he learns that a previous student was just killed by a grisly bear. To most of the law enforcement, that is what it appears to have happened, but Dr. Cray was not convinced. However, the police and department of natural resources had their collective minds made up, so they track a likely bear suspect and terminate it.

After reviewing missing persons accounts in the area over a period of years, he finds that most of the subjects were young women, and believes there might be more similarities in their disappearance to his friend’s death. If the women did not get lost in the Montana mountains but were in fact murdered, and no bodies found, could there be a serial killer effectively hiding the evidence so well that he/she could get away with over a 30 year period?

The story is entertaining, but so much of the the protagonist’s activity is repetitive making the read tedious. Secondly, the good professor is almost too good to be true, having such a vast knowledge of the environment that he outsmarts all law enforcement and locals and goes after the killer single handedly. This is the first in a series and I am debating whether to read the next in line.
Profile Image for Dennis.
774 reviews1,471 followers
December 5, 2017
3.5/5 stars

If you enjoy the tv channel Investigation Discovery or shows like Forensic Files, then Andrew Mayne's The Naturalist is the perfect read for you! It is a quick, dark read that doesn't sugar coat the plot, while not explicitly getting too grotesque. The story starts off with Dr. Theo Cray being questioned about the disappearance of one of his past students, Juniper, who police claim has a direct link to Dr. Cray. After routine questioning, police confirm Juniper's death as an accidental bear attack in the nearby woods. Dr. Cray, professor and biologist, can't leave well enough alone because if Juniper was a dedicated student of his, she would know how to react to a bear in the woods. As Dr. Cray investigates the small Montana town that he's visiting, he begins to see how a town crippled by drugs, poverty, and a lack of education can only continue on by keeping their darkest secrets hidden. Through Dr. Cray's investigation, he realizes that things aren't always what it may seem.

The Naturalist was very different read for me—it had a lot of science background in it that I was not familiar (nor really wanted to be familiar) with, while keeping me on the edge of my seat by keeping the mystery at bay. Dr. Cray was sarcastic, witty, and a profound protagonist for me. This book is approximately 400 pages, but the dialogue isn't overtly sophisticated so you can easily brush through this read quickly. The Naturalist 's storyline was very original in a sense that it took key common themes (i.e.: drugs, town corruption, crime), and interweaving it into a robust plot development. I would also recommend anyone who enjoys anything by David Bell or Noah Hawley to definitely pick this one up. I immediately got Bring Her Home and Before The Fall vibes as I was trekking on with the story although neither book is similar in terms of content.

This book will not be for everyone—I'm telling you now. If you really aren't into the multifaceted world of biology, genetics, DNA, etc; this isn't the read for you. At points The Naturalist can be a little too technical and I had to catch myself from skipping through those sections. Once I was about 1/3 of the way into the story, I actually began to care more about the characters and was focused on finishing.

I was provided a copy of The Naturalist in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Wunderbooks PR, it was a pleasure.
Profile Image for Nicole.
90 reviews
October 9, 2017
It took me forever to read this book because #1. I kept falling asleep and #2. I dreaded picking it back up. Generally speaking, the story line was stupid, the characters were shallow and poorly developed, the action scenes were overly complicated and hard to envision, and the main character was so boring, I don't even remember his name. The first 30% of the book was like reading an encyclopedic entry on bears. Was the author trying to make us think a bear really was the killer? Or was he just showing off all the research he did on bears? Either way, it was obvious in the first chapter that the killer was not a bear, so why spend all that time boring me with details about bears? Eventually, the main character turns into this pompous know-it-all, who is doing the police's job because the police are inept. It irritated me that he was supposed to be so smart, yet he didn't see that he was making himself look like the killer. Well, not until the end when the light bulb finally went off. Queue the requisite "love interest". Could two characters have any less chemistry? And the "big sex scene" is in a car on the side of a road after they found ANOTHER dead body and are being followed? I need more synonyms for the words stupid and dumb. The book was peppered with scenes and set ups that had nothing to do with the story, only to provide a solution on the following page. The main character (still can't remember his stupid name), would go into great detail explaining the most obvious simple thought process. Not everything needs to be explained. Readers are smart enough to connect the dots. But perhaps the most insulting feature was his uncanny ability to make an assumption and have it lead perfectly to the next victim or even more unbelievably, the perfect clue. I didn't want to waste my time finishing this book, but I wanted to give it a review worthy of it's horribleness, so I forced myself to finish so I could offer this review. I notice that this book is the first in a series, I seriously have doubts about the person who signed that deal.
Profile Image for Joey R..
249 reviews322 followers
October 30, 2017
Interesting but flawed

I love the concept of having a biologist/mathematician/naturalist investigating a string of possible murders that have been closed as bear attacks. Also, the novel is very fast paced which keeps you from thinking too deeply about the plot holes and the huge suspension of common sense you must make as a reader to accept what is before you. Even worse the author tries to hide behind a computer program written by the protagonist to find bodies, locations of crimes, occupations of suspects etc that still aren’t plausible knowing that the computer cameras up with the information. A great read for those looking to suspend belief for a few hours!
Profile Image for Murf the Surf.
24 reviews50 followers
December 16, 2019
A very provocative thriller!

I think most people that enjoy a good intelligent take, will be happy with this tome. It's got the medical stuff I crave, and the mystery horror that spices it it. Why, it's the perfect book chili recipe! Enjoy this, and so let the author know, Pax, Murf
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,894 reviews218 followers
October 7, 2018
What a wild ride! In this mystery-suspense-thriller, the story opens with Professor Theo Cray, a computational biologist, being questioned about a possible murder of a former student. He is released when police determine that a bear or mountain lion was involved. Or was it?

Professor Theo Cray is a remarkable character. He’s a brilliant scientist, and his strengths lie in numbers, systems, patterns, data-modeling, and methodical analysis. He is socially awkward when dealing with people. I found it clever and riveting, the very definition of a page-turner. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the police procedures, medicine, or forensics, but I have a feeling some of it was over the top. I chose to suspend disbelief and found myself thoroughly entertained.

I don’t often read series, but I just may have to pick up the sequel to see what Professor Cray gets up to next. Content includes profanity, violence, and gruesome descriptions of mutilated bodies. Recommended to readers that enjoy mystery-thrillers with a side of science.
Profile Image for JustSomeGuy.
243 reviews5 followers
September 18, 2017
Deciding to read this one was a total shot in the dark as I was without a book waiting for the library to re-open after the holiday break with books I had on hold. My September First Read email from Amazon came and I immediately selected this based on the primer sentence alone. Past selections of the First Read benefit have not gone well, but this one started out as a surprising exception. The main character in this book is the total opposite of a traditional protagonist - he's a socially awkward wuss brainiac who stumbles into a crime initially thought to be a bear attack. I bought into the scientific approach used by Professor Theo Cray as a replacement for formal sleuthing and enjoyed his total lack of physical presence and near complete inability to relate to people. The author does a great job describing how Cray's anti-social behavior isn't just a challenge for him personally, but how he's also viewed by others - including the police. Unfortunately, the book doesn't do much to foster the question readers could have started to ask: is he the psychopath killer or just an awkward amateur investigator professor genius? How accurate is the science? I don't know, but I bought into it enough to plow through the first half of the book. Unfortunately, things began falling apart for me once Cray starting to get a beat on the killer - readily using his repurposed computer model to figure out a pattern to locate the killers victims and even where his killing days began. By the time we race towards a ludicrous finale where the total wuss nerd takes on a jacked up, armored killing machine, the book lost a lot of the equity it had built up with me to that point. I was ready to add this series and Mayne to my To Read list, but I'm left torn between the promise of how this one started out and the steep decline the story took toward a ridiculous ending.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,889 reviews428 followers
April 26, 2021
‘The Naturalist’, book one in The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne, is offered by Amazon as a free novel if you are a member of KindleUnlimited. It is available for sale for $1.99. I’m thinking, ok then. Andrew Mayne has novels available for KindleUnlimited, so he’s probably a self-published or maybe, a third-string or beginning, writer, popular enough to have readers interested in his books.

I’m slapping myself. Prejudiced much? I should have learned my lesson after The Martian by Andy Weir. Side note: when I first read 'The Martian' I could not get the GR "insert book/author" to find the book for me when I tried to insert it into a review. Now, it comes up first in the suggestion box. Ha!

Repeat after me: “Never judge a book by its cover.” Or how it gets published….

Below is the cover blurb which I’ve copied out because it is accurate:

“Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.

As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?"

I adore Theo Cray! He is an interesting mix of naivety and extreme intelligence. The scientist who can explain particle physics but who can’t tie his shoelaces is a stereotype, but it works if the character is interesting or endearing. Dr. Cray is both. His naivety is from not being very comfortable when dealing with the world outside of his teaching job at a university in Austin. He is a young man, perhaps in his early thirties. He is in Montana doing research on tadpoles, on temporary leave from his instructor job. While he was getting ice, he is shocked when police surround a room at his motel just before breaking the door down. His door. His motel room.

A woman’s body was found in the forest which was horribly mutilated. On her laptop is a copy of Theo’s book, and to make matters even worse, she was a student of Theo’s. He realizes from what the police tell him about the victim in an interrogation she was Juniper “June” Parsons. He didn’t know she was in the area!

The police let him go after they receive information the attack on the woman was a bear, but Theo can’t let the death go. He is severely shaken up. He believes if he had taught her better survival skills while doing field work that she might have known to be more proactive in watching for bears. He has to investigate the site of her death. But he finds troubling signs that the attack could not have been a bear! The police are completely on the wrong track, but he can’t get them to listen to him.

What’s a scientist with a guilty conscience to do? Theo doesn’t know a thing about police work, but he does know science. He stubbornly begins his own investigation. Needless to say, he learns a lot about the dark side of human nature of which he didn’t have a clue. I wasn’t sure he would survive! His mistakes put him in the middle of a bunch of small-town issues beyond that of looking for killer. It is funny. It also nearly costs him his life. Ignorance is lethal, even for a brainy scientist!

I loved this exciting thriller! It begins slowly as a murder mystery, but builds up speed. Readers will not be putting the book down after the first half of the novel. Be prepared for a finish which will have your heart racing!
Profile Image for Sibel Gandy.
948 reviews55 followers
February 16, 2023
Değişik, güzel bir polisiyeydi. Bir ara bilimsel açıklamalardan beynim yansa da akıp gitti kitap.
Sadece Karındeşenin olayının açıklaması havada kaldı gibi 🤔
Profile Image for Barry.
362 reviews58 followers
April 18, 2022
I loved the premise of Andrew Mayne´s The Naturalist, namely that a computational biologist will notice things that the police do not and will have a perspective that is so different from that of the police that he will see a very different path in an investigation of an ancient murder.

Where Mayne was, presumably, very strong on computational biology, he was very weak on human behavior. So weak that many elements of the story were just plain silly. He comes to many ridiculous conclusions, for example, the main character looks at a photograph of children taken 40 +/- years ago and picks out the killer by the expression in his eyes. REALLY!!

He also lies repeatedly to the police and others and yet sees himself as a model of virtue. He states “For my PhD thesis, I created a fifth-dimensional environment, inhabited it with synthetic life, then introduced disease vectors.” C´mon.

It´s a shame that the premise is wasted by incorporating such drivel but such is life. Nonetheless, there is enough of a plot that completed the book because I wanted to find out ¨Who done it?¨ That was also an enormous letdown.

Obviously, I will not read books two and three in this series and advise that you skip all three.

Profile Image for Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer.
25 reviews3 followers
September 5, 2017
Enjoyable read

The geekiness of the main character appealed to me. Normally I do not like books written in the first person but this time I think it actually works for the story. The many short chapters sort of chopped up my reading flow though. I do think I will seek out some of this author's other books because overall I was pretty impressed with the handling of the characters and storyline.
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