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A Disturbing Nature
Brian Lebeau, author
When FBI Chief Investigator Francis Palmer and Maurice Lumen’s paths collide, a dozen young women are already dead—bodies strewn in the woods across southern New England. Crippled by the loss of their families and haunted by mistakes, they wrestle with skeletons and ghosts neither understands. Who is destined to pay for the sins of their fathers, and who will pay for their own? Under a celebrity veneer, the Beast in Palmer simmers. Called back from an investigation that’s gone dry in Seattle to his field office in Boston, he’s assigned to a case closer to home. Without closure and carrying the scars of every predator he’s hunted down, Palmer’s thrust into a new killer’s destructive path and forced to confront his own demons. On the surface, Mo Lumen seems an unlikely suspect. Abandoned by the Great Society and sheltered from the countercultural revolution, he’s forced to leave Virginia under the shadow of secrets and accusations. Emerging in Rhode Island, burdened with childlike innocence, reminders of the past threaten to resurrect old carcasses. A psychological thriller set in the summer of 1975, “A Disturbing Nature” explores the concept of two deaths, blurring the line between man and monster.
Lebeau debuts with a gripping psychological thriller set during the mid-1970s. The story unravels through the eyes of its two protagonists, FBI detective Francis Palmer and a young college groundskeeper Maurice “Mo” Lumen. Palmer, estranged from his wife and daughters and surviving on coffee and cigarettes, finds his fate inextricably linked to Mo when the bodies of twelve young women are discovered around Rhode Island’s Bryant College. Mo’s role in the deaths is unclear, and his background of emotional trauma and intellectual disability immediately puts him on Palmer’s radar. Their paths inevitably converge as they are confronted with the horror of a mass murderer on the prowl while haunted by demons from their own past.

Through Palmer’s perspective, Lebeau offers a deep dive into the subject of criminal psychology. Palmer inhabits the archetypical “hardboiled” detective persona, an obsessive insomniac numb to the cycle of violence, trying to outrun his past. Meanwhile Mo, an orphan from Virginia with a developmental disability due to a grand mal seizure he suffered at age eleven, acts as a foil to the cynical detective. Mo has his own fair share of emotional trauma, having lost loved ones, but despite his harsh circumstances, the young man harbors an innocent naiveté and genuine affection for his friends, making him the heart of this unsettling story.

The novel frequently hurtles between past and present incidents with both main characters, and these transitions are initially jarring–however, later in the story they smooth out and are delivered with a confident, almost cinematic flair. Palmer is often an unlikeable cliché, casually objectifying the women he meets at bars while drinking his sorrows away, but Lebeau steers away from crime tropes when illuminating the pain behind Palmer’s actions. In the end, this is a successful thriller, keeping readers on their toes and serving a satisfying climax. Fans will eagerly await the second installment of this slated quadrilogy.

Takeaway: A solid crime thriller helmed by an antihero that delves into the history of American criminal psychology.

Great for fans of: Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls, Alex Michaelides’s The Silent Patient.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A