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The Naturalist #3

Murder Theory

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The desire to kill is becoming contagious in this riveting novel of conceivable mad science by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Naturalist.

Computational biologist and serial-killer hunter Dr. Theo Cray receives an off-the-record request from the FBI to investigate an inexplicable double homicide. It happened at the excavation site where a murderer had buried his victims’ remains. In custody is a forensic technician in shock, with no history of aggression. He doesn’t remember a thing. His colleagues don’t even recognize the man they thought they knew. But an MRI reveals something peculiar. And abnormal.

What on earth made him commit murder?

After discovering that a mysterious man has been stalking crime scenes and stealing forensic data, Cray has a radical and terrifying theory. Now he must race against time to find a darker version of himself: a scientist with an obsession in pathological behavior who uses his genius not to catch serial killers—but to create them.

314 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 5, 2019

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Andrew Mayne

59 books2,263 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 556 reviews
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
793 reviews12.4k followers
February 24, 2019
Intelligent, Dark, and Suspenseful!

Murder Theory is a tightly wound thriller with an intriguing lead.

Dr. Theo Cray, a computational biologist, uses science and the darkness he carries within, to catch serial killers. I can’t say much about the plot of Murder Theory without giving spoilers, but I can say without giving anything away that Theo is the only person smart enough to identify and track down the killer. He breaks laws, pisses off the higher-ups, and puts himself in danger all in the effort to save lives.

This is book three in the series, but the first for me. It can be read as a standalone--I was not lost or longing for additional information. Sufficient background on Theo and his previous cases are provided.

I really enjoyed this book. In the beginning, I was more than a little overwhelmed by the scientific theory and questioned whether or not to stick with it, as much was going straight over my head. It is very well-written and clear that Mayne has done his research, but I am just not a huge fan of scientific theory. I also, at first, thought the plot was a little too farfetched. However, I persevered and I am so glad that I did!

Theo’s character won me over. He is both arrogant and fascinating. His arrogance is not off-putting, rather it worked to build my confidence in his ability to catch the bad guy and save humanity!

Overall, this is a well-written and smart read with an ending that left me wanting more!

Thank you to all of my GR friends who brought this book to my attention!

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,022 reviews2,525 followers
February 16, 2019

Dr. Theo Cray is a very different protagonist than I typically see in murder mysteries. He’s a computational biologist and in the prior two books, he’s used his scientific methods to track down serial killers. As someone working with him says “ You’re like a time traveler trying to explain forensics to a bunch of medieval monks who still think in terms of humors and vital essences.”

Also, the premise of this book is very different than the normal murder mystery. Something at the burial site for the victims of the prior book is causing the technicians working there to become violent. Then Dr. Cray finds another situation of what he starts calling the Hyde virus (as in Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde). What is the same and is starting to wear thin is the whole Dr. Cray against the government scenario.

Andrew Mayne doesn’t make it easy on his readers. There’s lot of scientific theory in all his books. I can’t imagine the amount of research he must do. For those that like to be made to think, these are enjoyable books. And despite all the science and AI, this is a fast paced story. Mayne has added some enjoyable secondary characters to this book and it’ll be interesting to see if they come back in book four. This one ends with a big cliffhanger.

This is the third in the series and I think the reader would benefit from having read the prior two.

My thanks to netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for an advance copy of this novel.

Profile Image for LIsa Noell "Rocking the Chutzpah!.
579 reviews156 followers
May 5, 2022
A virus that turns normal everyday Joe's into a murderer? Sign me up! I loved this book! Dr. Theo Cray is not a cop, detective, or F.B.I. He's a sometime teacher, who also works in a lab. He's good with numbers and computational stuff that boggles my mind. He occasionally finds murderers that others can't find, or sometimes don't even know are active. But, Theo sees patterns that others can't see. It makes for one heck of a ride! I also enjoy that he's always spouting facts. It's all very informative and never boring. This book wasn't as scary as the last book, but it's definitely one worth reading. I'm looking forward to the next. Author Andrew Mayne is someone I'd be willing to bet is either fascinating to talk to, or very long winded! My thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for allowing me to read and review this book.
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,057 reviews364 followers
February 5, 2019
In Murder Theory, Computational biologist and serial-killer hunter Dr. Theo Cray is back after slaying dragons and killing monsters in the previous two novels. Well, okay, no dragons and the monsters were serial killers. Now there is something strange lurking in the dig around the last murder site, something that is making seemingly normal people kill and kill violently. While the local cops and even the FBI are quick to write this off as a one time psychotic break, Cray begins to see a pattern of behavior that could be viral based and, if it is, could spell potential problems if it falls into the wrong hands aka WMD used by any government or military. As Cray searches for the causes, the how and why of the virus and how it could be spread, he begins to trip ever so lightly over the line of good and evil and, at times, appears a little closer to the monster he once was chasing. Has the virus affected him or is this just part of his mad genius working overtime?

Mayne is an excellent story-teller. His writing style and quick chapters propel the story along at a rapid fire pace making this a thrilling ride to the finish. There are times when the story could get bogged down in the scientific jargon, and there is a lot of that, but Mayne makes the science so interesting that it lends to the excitement of the tale rather than detracts from it. It creates substance rather than has the reader skimming over the dry parts because, quite simply, there are no dry parts. I have no idea if any of the science is real but it certainly sounds authentic to me and I love it! And let me tell you – I’m a sucker for last lines that make me go “WHAT!?!?” and the last line of the book had me doing exactly that!!! I would read this book all over again just to get to that last line! You know me well enough by now that when I write that, it’s a killer ending! And in this case it may very well be just that!

Murder Theory could be read as a stand alone. There is enough back story that a new reader could pick up and carry on without reading the first two installments. I do, however, highly recommend the first books as well as his Jessica Blackstone series. They are well worth reading and highly enjoyable!

Murder Theory is available today at your local book seller or library. Many thanks to #Netgalley, #AndrewMayne and #Thomas&Mercer for my copy of this great thriller!
Profile Image for Linda.
1,227 reviews1,276 followers
February 21, 2019
"I am not a Minion of Evil. I am Upper Management." (Unknown)

Andrew Mayne has sliced open quite the watermelon here. Thickly separated into juicy portions with a trail of sticky seeds.

Dr. Theo Cray wears his newly found reputation of serial-killer killer like an impressive tattoo. It ventures into a dark universe well beyond his usual territory of computational biologist. Mayne introduced us to Theo in The Naturalist which is the first book in this series. I had Looking Glass #2 up at bat, but so like me on Christmas morning, I couldn't wait and jumped into Murder Theory #3. Mayne fills in the missing pieces with just enough backstory.

Our story opens with a crew of FBI forensic agents sifting through the crime scene in the aftermath of a previous serial killer. The agents have reported flu-like symptoms. Two of them die within days and one of them goes missing. Eventually the agent shows up, but everything about him seems altered. An MRI will reveal something jaw-dropping.

Theo runs his own government backed lab in Austin, Texas. He's been known to fly aboard a State Department jet now and then to investigate hush hush sites. Theo had even been presented with the challenge of pursuing a common genetic thread for terrorists. Mayne ladles on mighty layers of scientific secret sauce within these pages. Never fear......his explanations are thought-provoking and easily understood while avoiding the deer-in-the-headlights look. It's amazing to think of the scientific horizons within arm's length for the future in crime investigation.

Is it the nature of the beast to become a monster without even realizing it or is it a so-called fine art gleaned from experiential life episodes? Andrew Mayne will crack the door open a bit and we, as readers, step into this bizarro world at a fast pace. If you get a chance to pick up The Naturalist, this will set the tone. Murder Theory ends with a gasp......and we'll be hyperventilating until the next one gets here. Hunka Munka time, people.

I received a copy of Murder Theory through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Thomas & Mercer and Andrew Mayne for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,725 reviews12.8k followers
April 4, 2021
To call Andrew Mayne one of the most engrossing thriller writers that I have read would not be a leap. He is not only easy to comprehend, but his versatility makes for an exciting adventure each time I get my hands on another of his publications. This series, in particular, has come up with some of the most thought-provoking thriller reads that I have found in longer than I can remember. Mayne’s unique situations and captivating protagonist, Theo Cray, create a new layer of intrigue that keeps getting better the more I read. Cray has settled down a little, working in a lab. He’s been contracted by the Department of Defence to handle some analytics and seems in his element. However, something’s going on at the scene of the Toy Man’s burial ground, a serial killer Cray helped uncover. While some feel that it is just an anomaly, the FBI calls on Cray to investigate. He finds a chilling pattern and soon realises that someone is out there, not a serial killer in the traditional sense, but rather someone who is creating them before they are unleashed on the world. A stunning piece that leaves the reader gasping for breath by the end, with a cliffhanger like no other. This is Mayne at his best, full stop!

Theo Cray is a talented computational biologist, studying the systems in which things live and finding patterns to describe actions. He’s also been able to use this background to bring down two stunning serial killers, both of whom eluded the authorities with their conniving ways. After having set up a lab in Austin, Texas, Cray has a team and they are synthesising data, including a fairly hefty program for the Department of Defence (DoD). It’s a great deal of work, but Cray has the support he needs and even a lab manager who seems capable.

When news comes to him that there is something taking place at the burial site of the Toy Man, the second of the aforementioned killers, Cray is intrigued. A forensic technician was collecting samples and seemingly had a psychotic break, killing those around him. While he is in custody, the oddity of the action baffles everyone, as the technician was known to be docile. Cray is called in by the FBI to have a look, as nothing is adding up. While it baffles Cray as well, there’s surely something there to be found, given a little time and some analysis.

Cray digs deeper, only to discover that there is something on the medical scans that appears troubling. Could those who killed have been infected with something that pushed them in that direction? While Cray has seen it in the insect world, there’s nothing documented about a neurological toxin that turns a human into a killing machine, or is there?

Someone is out there and it is up to Cray to coax them out of the shadows, if only to determine who they could be. Coining the term ‘Hyde virus’ to denote the flip side personality that emerges, Cray seeks to determine its origin. Cray decides to take the giant leap and create his own murder scene to lure the ‘killer’ out to see what happens. All the while, he is bound and determined to see what is being used to infect the brain. It’s a risky move, as the authorities are sure that there is a new killer on the loose, with a pile of bodies that Cray has left out. Shoddy prep work points to someone having provided Cray with the materials, leaving him in trouble with the law and facing potential jail time. Still, he must get to the bottom of this before it’s too late.

Working every angle he can, Cray finds something in the DoD files that could help him better understand the Hyde virus, but it will take more than dusty reports on yellowing pages to catch this serial killer creator, negating the neurological blowback and the additional fallout. This may be the largest case ever for Cray, who once considered himself a humble introvert with a side of arrogance. This is a chilling novel, though even that seems to be an understatement, particularly when referring to the final few paragraphs of this book, which offer up a cliffhanger like no other.

I have never read an Andrew Mayne novel and felt underwhelmed or anything bordering on indifferent. There is so much to absorb in each book that the reader takes something away. Add to that, the completely different path each series follows and the reader is treated to something even more stunning. I kick myself for having waited this long to discover Mayne’s work, after a few great friends have been hinting that I need to give his books a chance. The Theo Cray series alone has pushed me to my limits and keeps me enthralled throughout each piece. I can only wonder what the next book will bring.

Theo Cray remains unique while also growing on the reader in this series. Having almost fallen in to the world of serial killer hunter, Cray uses his academic background to find things that are elusive to many others. His work in Montana and Atlanta returns throughout this book, at least in passing mention, while he discovers nuances and clues that point in a particular direction. Mayne has not only honed his protagonist’s skills, but also given him a complex personality, which is on offer throughout. Building his professional and personal lives in tandem, the reader is able to see a fully three dimensional character who springs from the page with ease, something that few series can do so readily in a supersaturated genre.

The secondary characters in Andrew Mayne’s novels are not simply window dressing, as this series proves repeatedly. Like an errant fibre or piece of blood spatter in most novels, everything (and everyone) serves a purpose. The larger narrative is enriched and flavoured by those who grace the pages of this book, some complementing the protagonist, while others seek to impede progress. Either way, it is a wonderful experience and adds significantly to the novel’s connectivity. There is so much going on, but it never feels tangential and useless, as Mayne spins a web that is only later fully revealed and understood. I cannot wait to see what awaits the series, as there is something brewing, even amongst the secondary cast of characters.

Andrew Mayne is one of the great crime thriller storytellers, hands down. While he may not create eerie killers who sit in their homes plotting and using their own narrative perspective to add chills, there is definitively something to be said about how he constructs his novels. The stories build off one another (so I will bluntly say, ‘yes, you have to read the novels in order and from the beginning in this series’) and the action ramps up with each chapter. Theo Cray gets better the more the reader discovers and the narrative pushes him to the limits throughout. All that being said, there is a sense of realism throughout that keeps the reader from feeling things are getting too far off track. All this could happen and yet it is also so mind boggling. Crisp writing in short chapters keeps the reader forging ahead and the twists begin to pile up. The story has layers like no other and I cannot say enough about the momentum the plot injects into each page. This is surely not a book for those seeking a quick read that will soon be forgotten. Mayne’s pieces are like ear wigs that stick with you, but that’s a good thing, as you need to remember what’s happened to see where the path leads next.

With one more novel in this series (to date) and an upcoming publication including Cray and Jessica Blackwood together, fans of Mayne’s work have much in which to revel. Stellar writing has never been so addictive and I can only hope others discover Mayne soon, as I would love to dissect his work with other newbies and long-time fans!

Kudos, Mr. Mayne, for another wonderful piece. You never cease to amaze me with what you have to say about the world through your writing. I can definitely see a fan base growing exponentially if your writing continues to be as strong.

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 Emma.
2,435 reviews828 followers
February 18, 2019
3.5 stars. I enjoyed this book but it wasn’t as good as the first two in the series. It wasn’t as funny and it was (more) science laden. Theo does go above and beyond to solve the crime particularly at Butcher’s Creek.
Profile Image for Erth.
3,506 reviews
January 20, 2022
Andrew Mayne delivers another brilliant book in the Professor Theo Cray series. They just get better and better. I really don't want the series to end but there is just one book left! Book three was more like the first in that Theo's antics were just as mad as he is but the way Andrew writes he makes you think otherwise and you are swept along in all craziness! The books are so engrossing and entertaining. I find myself routing for Theo and spurring him on to succeed. Once again I have to give praise to the superb audio narration.
Profile Image for Sibel Gandy.
948 reviews55 followers
March 13, 2023
3,5 / 5
İthaki 4.kitabı da çıkartsaydı da bitirseydik seriyi keşke.
Profile Image for Claire.
822 reviews176 followers
July 3, 2022
The most outrageous but perhaps the best in the series so far? Live, laugh, love.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,938 reviews787 followers
January 27, 2019
I've read all the books published in the Jessica Blackwood series by Andrew Mayne. But, Murder Theory is the first I've read in The Naturalist series. And, I have to admit that at first didn't Dr. Theo Cray, a computational biologist and serial-killer hunter, rock my boat the same way that Jessica Blackwood does. Not a bad story at all, just not on the same interested level and it got a bit "scientific" now and then. Then, BAM one of the best scenes ever happened that pretty much changed how I felt for the book. And, I can't write about it since you know spoilers. However, I will just say this, this is by far the most interesting way to capture a serial killer. Seriously, totally mental and I loved it. After that, I just felt that yup this is a series for me. Any guy that can do something like this is my kind of guy to read about!

So, kudos to Andrew Mayne for the worlds greatest how-to-catch-a-serial-killer-scene!

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
February 11, 2019
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2019/02/11/...

The crime mystery and thriller genres are full of protagonists who claim they will go to any lengths to stop a killer, but computation biologist Dr. Theo Cray will give them all a run for their money in this totally insane and off-the-wall third volume of Andrew Mayne’s Naturalist series. Once more our hero is on the trail of a serial killer, but this time, he may have met his match. You might even say that Theo is hunting for a dark version of himself, a difficult quandary that forces him to confront some uncomfortable truths about his own psyche.

Shortly after the events of Looking Glass, Theo has resumed his work on top secret projects for the government. However, the repercussions of his last investigation haunt him still. One day, he is approached by an FBI agent whose colleagues had been working on the site of where Theo had tracked down his last target, which was also where the murderer had buried all his victims’ remains. Now two of the agents are dead, and a third one is missing, presumably having gone on the run after killing the others. But when they catch the suspect, the man appears in shock with no memory of what happened. His erratic behavior, and the fact that those closest to him say they can’t even recognize him as the same person they once knew, led to MRI scans of his brain. And the results are terrifying.

Now Dr. Cray finds himself faced with the prospect of a literal mad scientist who is using their vast genius and knowledge to kill. Whoever it is, they’re also an expert in virology and pathological behavior, as well as a master at concealing their identity and not getting caught. And, Theo fears but is loath to admit, they might even be smarter than him.

Our protagonist has always been a driven man, motivated by problems to solve because they allow him to design models and exercise his intelligence, not to mention his work also saves lives and puts murderers out of commission. This time though, his ego is also a major driving force, and while he may be cognizant of the fact, his competitive streak stills gets him into all kinds of trouble. Of course, Theo being Theo, he’s no stranger to trouble, and half the fun of these books is watching him try to mentally MacGyver himself out of some super tight spots.

Things do take a slightly dark turn though, as Theo is pushed to the limits. Our boy takes vigilantism to a whole other level in this one, and if you thought his law-flouting and risk-taking was extreme in the previous books, just wait ‘til you see what he does here. There’s a lot I love about this series, including the thrilling action and fascinating science, but a big part of the enjoyment is also in watching the main character grow over time. In The Naturalist, Theo was a fledgling serial-killer hunter whose naivete was a weakness that almost became the death of him. As a result, he hardened his heart in Looking Glass and welcomed the darkness. By the end of Murder Theory, however, we may be witnessing another change in Theo as he realizes he may have taken things a little too far and that his by-any-means-necessary attitude might be swiftly leading him down a dangerous path.

For this reason, I highly recommend starting the series from the beginning, though one could probably get away with reading Murder Theory as a standalone. A thing to note is that the book does make many references to Theo’s past investigations, in essence forming a thematic link between the serial murder cases in each book that only someone familiar with all three can fully appreciate. Plus, these books are just so much fun, it would be a shame to miss any of it by jumping in at a later point. I continue to be impressed by the scientific aspects, as well as Theo’s knack for spotting patterns in the data. Mayne’s storytelling is also once again on full throttle in this fast-paced no-stops thrill ride boosted with plenty of humor and straight up crazy twists.

That said, Murder Theory probably wasn’t my favorite of the series (an honor that still belongs to Looking Glass) due to a couple minor faults. One, I found the early parts too heavy on the scientific jargon. Two, this book didn’t make me laugh nearly as much as the previous ones did! I guess I’m just going to chalk it up to the darker, more macabre direction of the story. And three, though technically this isn’t a real criticism, I found it way too short. Talk about leaving me wanting more; this was a book hangover that hit me even before I could finish! It’s no exaggeration when I say I would have happily gone for another hundred pages or two following Theo on his pursuit of the killer, and I was practically distraught when the book ended, because damn, that last line!

What more can I say, but I just loved this. I love this series. I love Theo Cray. Yes, things can get a little bonkers sometimes, but that’s what makes these books so amazing. Every time I pick up something with Andrew Mayne’s name on the cover, I know I’ll be in for a hell of a good time, and he hasn’t let me down yet. Can’t wait for the next one.
Profile Image for Lynn (Smile24k).
163 reviews6 followers
February 19, 2019
Solid story, but missing the creepy factor I loved from the other books. This is the 3rd book in The Naturalist series and while it is still enjoyable, it is my least favorite.

Basic Plot: Dr. Theo Cray finds himself embroiled in another case of trying to find a serial killer. He is just coming off finding the Toy Man and now something bad has happened at the site of the Toy Man's killing ground. A couple people are dead and a forensic tech is a suspect. The tech would normally be the least likely person to be suspected of violence, but Theo suspects that something or someone has altered his brain. And whatever caused a violent streak in this tech, might be effecting others.

Starting with the positive, I really like the Theo character. He is smart and quirky and doesn't shy away from getting involved in some dangerous situations. The science element that is added to these books is really interesting and it's what makes these books different from other crime mysteries. I often find myself trying to decide whether the science stuff is real or even possible and for me, it's kind of fun.

In this book, Theo finds himself breaking a lot of rules in his quest to find out what is driving people to violence. Some of what he does just isn't well thought out. I am ok with some reaching in order to drive the plot and make a good story, but Theo is super smart and it just didn't add up. My biggest disappointment with this book is that the book just doesn't have the scare factor or creep factor of the other books. Without the creepy factor there was just a lot of inner Theo monologues and a lot of sciencey (making up a word) stuff. The sciencey stuff works out well when it is balanced with the proper amount of creepy...but, just not enough creepy in this one.

Overall, I like this author and this character and I would read another Theo Cray book...hopefully one with a lot more creepiness.
Profile Image for Brenda.
725 reviews148 followers
September 5, 2019
This was another great read, but the Butcher Creek scenario was too extreme and unrealistic. The addition of secondary characters in the form of two young female gamers felt contrived. I did like Gallard and hope he continues. He reminds me of Glenn, who unfortunately died in the first book. He understands Theo and counterbalances Theo’s personality.

Now I must wait a few weeks for the next book. Looking forward to it.
Profile Image for Darren.
1,707 reviews29 followers
February 2, 2019
I got this as a e book from Net Galley. I enjoyed reading this book. It had a good story to it. It is my first book read by this author.I hope to read more books by this author.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
428 reviews27 followers
May 26, 2022
Because of my lab science background, I thoroughly enjoy this mix of science, serial killers, and loner/hero who does everything the hard way. Sometimes I found Theo just a little preachy. Just when I was feeling annoyed everything started happening and I forgot all about it. Everything I have read by this author has been both entertaining and just a little unique which I love. If you haven’t read anything by him you should remedy that.
Profile Image for Pat.
2,310 reviews404 followers
September 2, 2019
3.5 stars. I think the author lost his own plot a bit with this one. It was still very readable but didn't reach the heights of the first two.
Profile Image for Miglė.
Author 13 books369 followers
September 12, 2019
Ogi žinote, buvo smagu!

Nusikaltimo būdas truputį mažai tikėtinas, bet susuko taip, kad atrodytų tikėtinas, tai man tinka.
Pagrindinis veikėjas pasidarė labiau arogantiškas, bet ir tuo geriau jam.
Niekšas toks jau truputį matytas, bet įdomus ir gerokai besiskiriantis nuo niekšų kitose šio autoriaus knygose, tai pliusas už neužsisėdėjimą ant to paties.

Vėl - dramatiškos finalinės scenos kiek mažiau puikios negu likęs pasakojimas, bet tebūnie.
Profile Image for Joann.
380 reviews4 followers
February 22, 2019
While this suspenseful mystery was a little heavy on the biology verbiage at times, I loved the plot, the suspense, and the ending leaving me wanting more - talk about a cliffhanger!! Theo Cray is a biologist computer expert who tracks serial killers. He is diabolical in his hunt which made the story even better. Good read for suspense/mystery fans - embrace the bio jargon and you'll be fine!

Thank you to NetGalley for advanced copy.
Profile Image for Katherina.
62 reviews12 followers
February 10, 2019
I loved the first two books in this series, but I got annoyed pretty quickly with Theo in this one. I felt like he put himself out there too much and went too far. His logic for not involving the police/FBI just didn't seem to hold water like it did in the previous two books. About 3/4 of the way through I just wanted it to be over. I was entertained, but not to the level of the last two books.
Profile Image for Barb.
686 reviews37 followers
February 14, 2019
Teetering between 4 & 5 stars. I really like these books & I like the main character but I feel like I should like him more & just don’t. Also had to deduct some points for feasibility. I’m good at suspending disbelief but this pushed me to the limit a few times. So that sounds a bit too negative but overall I really enjoyed this book!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
128 reviews4 followers
February 13, 2019
I am really enjoying this series. The only weakness, which is kind of aggravating, is that Cray makes connections seemingly out of nowhere. He goes into his "fugue state" when he is following a train of thought, and then suddenly he knows where to look for the...thing, but we don't know how he got there. It's a minor complaint, but I hope Mayne is more fastidious in the next installment.
578 reviews24 followers
February 4, 2019
4.5 of 5 stars
Murder Theory is the third instalment in Andrew Maine’s Naturalist series and is yet again a compelling and completely engrossing read. I think this could be read as a stand-alone although personally I would advise readers to check out the first two books in the series as they’re both great reads and on top of that it will give a better understanding of the main character, Theo Cray.

This books picks up just a short time after the conclusion of No.2. We have a short opening sequence where Theo is assisting the Government with questioning a potential Russian spy. From there the story then balloons fairly quickly with Theo himself coming under suspicion from the FBI. It seems that a crime scene has itself become the scene of yet a further murder with two dead bodies on site and a third person missing. In typical Mayne fashion it feels a bit crazy and totally random and yet once again you are pulled very quickly into the story.

Theo once again comes up with a unique train of thought that sees the investigation take an unusual turn and I have to say that the actual theory he comes up with is pretty darned chilly to read about. I don’t want to give away any spoilers for this because this is the type of book where readers will make discoveries thick and fast all on their own but for me this particular story definitely had the scare factor in terms of making you consider possibilities and ‘what ifs’. On top of that the author has come up with a very intelligent antagonist indeed. A person who can not only put Theo to the test in very clever ways and think one step ahead but also seems to be a fan of Theo’s own particular maverick style of investigation .

On top of this we have another couple of elements to the story in terms of keeping up with Theo’s personal life and also being updated on his laboratory work, where he’s supposed to be working on a top secret initiative involving genes and terrorists. This adds another layer of chaos to Theo’s already frantic life and demonstrates the tenuous grasp he has on the ‘normal’ life he leads and that many others take for granted.

Theo is the sort of individual who finds it difficult to interact with others and this is something that inevitably leads him into bother with others. He doesn’t seem to have the skill set necessary to get people onboard and in fact usually ends up antagonising others with his wild theories. This book is very similar in that respect and in fact I did wonder if the series might be becoming too formulaic in that regard. Thankfully Mayne avoids this pitfall by taking Theo to an even darker level in this instalment where he really pushes the line between good and bad/right and wrong and takes the story into a different realm where reflection and doubt play a greater role. I can’t lie, Theo does push the limits in this story and whilst he’s trying to catch a baddie some of his actions do make you wonder whether he’s going too far. Thankfully I do like Theo, he’s a very interesting character to read and his theories and train of thought are fascinating and he seems to be making not only a name for himself but also, thankfully, garnering a couple of people who are sympathetic to his way of thinking – although I have my doubts about one of these.

In terms of criticisms. Well, as I already mentioned above this felt like it could go down a familiar route. I think the author manages to keep this fresh by taking our main guy into even darker territory in terms of right and wrong. I would also mention that the ending, well, let’s just say that I t ends on one of those notes that makes you desperate to read the next book.

Overall. I’m loving this series. It’s a little bit crazy, it’s totally compelling and I know that when I pick the next instalment up I’ll yet again be completely transfixed by Dr Cray and his world. I can’t get enough of this series at the moment.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Profile Image for Mandy.
479 reviews2 followers
February 8, 2019
3.5-4 stars

Now what?!?! That ending! Ha! I’m honestly surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed this series. Theo Cray, for lack of a better word, is crazy. His no holds barred mentality gets him into trouble and while everything about these books feels incredibly far fetched, I am so entertained by them! I like the author’s writing style and fast paced chapters, I love the quirky, nerdy characters, and the mystery behind all of it.
Profile Image for Hannah.
396 reviews33 followers
March 11, 2019
It pains me to give this 3 stars, but it just wasn't on the same level as the first two books in this series. It didn't grab me and suck me in. I missed the creepiness. I think this book was more of a filler book, and a turning point for Theo. Which makes me believe (and hope) the next book will get back on track and be phenomenal.

All that being said, the concept of this book really is quite terrifying. And the way Andrew Mayne writes makes it all so believable. I won't pretend to know what is and isn't accurate when it comes to the actual science of these books, but that kind of makes it more fun. Mayne is a precise writer which is great for these books, combining (real?) science (especially biology), science fiction, mystery, murder, suspense, and a bit of horror.

Theo Cray really is a modern day Sherlock. And just like Sherlock, he has many flaws, but it's those flaws that often aid in completing the mission.

So, overall, disappointed in this one, but definitely still a fan who will anxiously await the next installment of this brilliant series.
Profile Image for Tammy.
834 reviews138 followers
February 18, 2019
I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: Mayne continues his series about computational scientist/serial murder catcher Dr. Theo Cray, with another stellar entry that will terrify readers with its “what if?” premise.

Well, Andrew Mayne has done it again. Damn these stories are so much fun! I decided on a whim to pick up Murder Theory over the weekend and raced through it in only two days. If you’re new to The Naturalist series, Dr. Theo Crane is one of the most complex, intelligent and maddening protagonists I’ve ever run across. Maddening because he’s almost too smart for his own good and has a way of getting himself into a heap of trouble, even as he’s trying to do the right thing. Theo has a habit of hunting down serial killers—by himself, since most of the time his theories are so out there that the police don’t believe him—and this is what makes Mayne’s stories so good.

Theo has his own government-funded lab now and has hired top people to help him run it. He’s been tasked by his boss General Figueroa to come up with technology that can determine someone who might have “terrorist genes,” but in reality Theo is concentrating on his own personal projects. When the story begins, Theo has just found out about a strange murder that's been discovered at the site of the Toy Man murders, Theo’s last harrowing adventure from Looking Glass . Three lab techs were taking samples from the site and doing follow-up work, but now two of them are dead and one is missing. Theo is reluctant to revisit the site where he recently went through so much trauma, but he agrees to help out.

When the missing tech turns up, a man named Daniel Marcus, it’s clear to Theo that he killed the other two techs. But how to prove it? When the FBI interrogates Marcus, there’s something off about him, which puts Theo on a circuitous path to find out what made Marcus go crazy and turn on his friends. With the help of an FBI agent from D.C., Theo gets down to business, utilizing his unorthodox scientific methods to solve the crime. But as the clues are revealed, Theo realizes that they have an extremely intelligent killer on their hands, and in order to beat him, Theo is going to have to prove that he’s even smarter.

You really don’t need to read the other two books in the series to enjoy Murder Theory, as it stands alone quite nicely. However, Mayne does reference events and characters from those books, so new readers might stumble a bit. For example, in the first book, The Naturalist, Theo’s girlfriend Jillian plays a big part in the story, and while she does make an appearance or two in this book, she’s mostly in the background. New readers may wonder “who is Jillian?” because Mayne doesn’t rehash the past (thankfully!), but readers of the previous books will appreciate these brief scenes, which show Jillian’s snarky sense of humor and her ability to put up with such a wild card of a boyfriend.

Once again, Mayne adds lots of fascinating scientific details relating to the murders, and this time the plot revolves around viruses. Every time I read stories about viruses I’m reminded of how terrifying they are, and this book scared me to death! Mayne resorts to info-dumping at times in all his books, but it never bothers me because I learn so much. The reader follows his thought processes as he solves the mysteries of the murders, and trust me when I say that Theo’s mind is an intriguing place to visit.

But as smart as he is, Theo lacks the ability to stop himself from doing some crazy shit. There is one scene in this book that went WAY over the top from Theo’s behavior in the previous books, so much so that I almost started laughing. Ultimately it moved the story forward, but it was very hard to suspend my disbelief. Theo’s actions are becoming more and more risky as the books progress, so again, new readers might be shocked by his flagrant disregard for the law, especially since he’s such a high profile person now, famous in his own right for solving some “unsolvable” murders.

I also thought the ending wasn’t quite up to par with the first two books, in regards to the excitement and tension that I’ve come to expect from Mayne. That’s not to say that it wasn’t exciting, but for some reason it felt a bit flat to me. There is a WTF twist at the end, however, that made me wonder what Mayne will do in the next book. I guess time will tell!

Overall, I just love this series. Andrew Mayne continues to impress me with his near perfect pacing, vivid characterizations and the sheer amount of scientific detail that he smoothly inserts into an action-packed story.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

My review of The Naturalist

My review of Looking GlassThis review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy
Profile Image for LJ.
3,156 reviews313 followers
May 11, 2019
First Sentence: The helpless man in the wheelchair thrilled him.

Dr. Theo Cray is a computational biologist. He has also built a reputation with the FBI as a hunter of serial killers and has been called upon to fulfill that role again. At the site of Cray's previous case, an agent with no history of violence has murdered two of his colleagues. Once captured, others note that he's not the same as he was, and the change is beyond his commission of the acts. But this isn't the only incident of violence on the site. As Theo investigates, he recognizes that he's up against someone as talented as he is and finds himself crossing the line in an effort to stop a killer.

Prologues, even when not so named and no matter how suspenseful, are a device unnecessary to a good book. There is no reason why this book could not have started with the first chapter, which is interesting and makes one suspicious of Q-Tips.

One of the attributes of Mayne's writing is his observations about people and human nature—"In parts of Africa even today, "witch children,” boys and girls born with albinism or other uncommon features, are treated as outcasts and killed for their supposed magical powers. … To be sure, it's one thing to murder a child for having different genders and another to make a joke at the expense of someone who is dealing with a handicap, but they're both acts of cruelty and dehumanization.' The comparison of the two killers in Mayne's previous two Cray books is fascinating and thought-provoking. It also leads to the age-old question—"Do you believe in evil?".

There is quite a lot of geek-speak and scientific information. One may either focus on it and learn some rather fascinating bits of information, or one may choose to skim through it and still pick up rather fascinating bits of information. Either way, one must pay attention as these passages can lead to sudden realization and/or twists.

It's nice when a character who starts out as a bit of an antagonist becomes an ally. It disrupts the stereotypes. The fact that in the midst of an investigation, Cray indulges in profanity which makes him very human and very real.

Reading Mayne is not for the weak of stomach or heart. What offsets it, however, is understanding that his character is operating for the greater good and that he has a conscience when he crosses a line—"Um, God, uh, forgive me for not believing. And forgive me for what I'm about to do. Uh, may they all rest in peace." We do also get flashes of Mayne's humor—"I look up to the sky as if I'm expecting Morgan Freeman to look down at me and wink, giving me his approval."

When Mayne creates a plot twist, it's a serious twist. Unfortunately, the climax is a bit too fantastical. Theo's co-rescuers are opportune and improbable, yet there is a great deal of humor among the suspense.

"Murder Theory" is, sadly, not Mayne's best book. But, between the unnecessary prologue and the nearly wall-banging last sentence, there are some good characters and breath-catching suspense.

MURDER THEORY (Suspense-Theo Cray-Georgia-Contemp) - Okay
Mayne, Andrew – 3rd in series
Thomas & Mercer – Feb 2019
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