Dr. Maria Martinez knows a few things about guilt. Convicted of a murder she doesn’t remember, Maria grapples with her slippery past, in The Killing Files, the second book in the Project Trilogy. Although experience has taught her that she can’t trust herself, she is starting to wonder whose story to believe. The Project, an underground organization who studied and trained her, has one version; her own mind tells another. Whom can she trust? Author Nikki Owen keeps the tension running high in this satisfying new thriller.
The recap of the trilogy’s first book is quick and dry, bringing The Killing Files up to speed. A science-based conspiracy that trains people to kill without thinking, The Project is deliciously villainous, peppered with sadistic scientists and pop psychology. Its many shadowy arms stretch after Maria, pursuing her as she attempts to retreat to Spain with her family. Of course, she’s as much their product as their patient—and as The Killing Files progresses, we’re left wondering how much agency she really has.
Additionally, Maria has Asperger’s syndrome. Her sensitivity to touch and eye contact, in particular, come into play, especially when she confronts an adversary. Slapped, “a sting like one hundred needle points pricks my skin. I want to scream at him, jolted by the feel of his touch, but am too scared because I know he could shout and the noise would bother me too much, and so instead I attempt to do as he says so he won’t touch me again.”
Told in the first person, The Killing Files sticks close to Maria’s perspective. Her looping inner monologue is a sharp contrast to her hyper-capable exterior. She’s technically gifted in astounding ways: she cracks complex codes in minutes, reassembles mechanical devices with ease, and senses acute sounds and scents. And another thing: she kills, seemingly without warning. Who’s next, and why? The Killing Files is a nail biter that promises a strong finish to this trilogy.
Claire Rudy Foster
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