After over a year of hard work, FBI Special Agent Ellie Conway and her husband, Special Agent Mac Connelly, have finally opened the Butterfly Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting the children of mentally ill and bipolar parents. The high they are riding comes to a crashing end, however, when Ellie is called to a murder scene the very night of the dedication. Ellie's no stranger to death and the evil of others, but the scene that greets her takes her breath away. Not only is the murder victim staged, but the killer has written lines from one of Ellie's own poems on the walls and has left her a personal message on an innocuous blue post-it note. The poetry and the notes are eerily reminiscent of a case Ellie solved a year ago.
It is summer in Virginia, and hurricane season is right on top of them. As the weather turns nasty and water pours from the skies, the murders continue. Ellie, promoted to Supervising Special Agent for this case, realizes with horror that the victims are linked by one factor: they are all involved with the Butterfly Foundation. Somehow the killer is using her beloved project to locate and target his victims, making a mockery of the sense of safety and support that the foundation was created to foster. Complicating issues is the fact that Ellie is suffering side effects from an old head injury. She is assaulted by dizziness and migraines, and strange fragments of songs and television series that dance through her mind, leading her to conclusions on the case that are almost bizarrely accurate.
As Ellie, Mac, and their team work to identify and stop the killer, it becomes evident that he is watching them and is leading them on a complex trail designed to distract and obfuscate. But what is he trying to distract them from? Their investigation will uncover a truth that is not only bigger than Ellie could have ever imagined, but it is also her worst nightmare.
Fans of mystery and suspense, I've got a treat for you: Cat Connor's novel "terrorbyte." This is the second in her series featuring FBI Special Agent Ellie Conway and the members of her investigation team, and it continues where the previous novel, "killerbyte," left off. Since this book assumes that the reader is already familiar with the main characters and their somewhat quirky personalities, I would advise that readers take these stories in order.
I enjoyed reading "killerbyte" this past summer; it is an excellent story. However, I have to admit that "terrorbyte" outstrips its predecessor by far. This is one of the best suspense novels that I have read in a while. It is very well-written, the plot is intricate and perfectly managed, and the characters are fascinating and wonderfully developed. Since so much of what goes on in Ellie's head revolves around music, it seems quite fitting that each chapter is named after a Bon Jovi song. I thought this was a clever touch and felt as if I ought to be listening to these tunes as a soundtrack to the story.
"terrorbyte" drew me in immediately and kept me intrigued and fully involved throughout the entire novel. It made me think, alternately amused and saddened me, and impressed me with its intelligent and well-crafted narrative. This is no simple mystery but instead is a multifaceted story that revolves around not just the murder investigation but also Ellie's fears regarding her mental health and how this may affect both her and Mac. The investigation itself consists of layer upon layer of difficulty and circumstance that must be sifted through in order to unearth the truth.
Ms. Connor puts Ellie Conway through hell physically, mentally, and emotionally, which just makes her that much more magnetic a character. I couldn't help but be drawn to Ellie. She has a wry, slightly sarcastic tone, and although she puts up a good "tough" public front, she is a tangle of turmoil and fear inside. She's afraid that she will eventually succumb to the same mental illness as her mother, and this distracts her to no end. Dealing with the effects of a previous head injury only exacerbates the matter. Her thought processes are interrupted by a slightly off-the-wall jumble of songs and scenes from movies and television shows which are both amusing and disturbing. Overall, we can't tell if she is prescient or simply a little bit crazy.
I feel very fortunate to have "discovered" Ms. Conner and her work, because she is an extremely talented author. Now that I have finished "terrorbyte," I feel quite invested in the characters and am very anxious to find out where Ms. Connor is going with them. I will be holding my breath in anticipation as I wait for her next novel, "exacabyte," to be released. If you enjoy mystery and suspense, you owe it to yourself to read these books. They will entertain you, fascinate you, and leave you begging for more.