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HUNTED by Elizabeth Heiter is the first novel in a proposed series centered on FBI Special Agent Evelyn Baine, who works in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU). Her job is to profile the most horrific criminals out in the world, killing, maiming and scaring people to death. She has worked very hard to get into the BAU, and her first year has gone well. Her work is nearly perfect.

But despite her high marks, she is overstepping her boundaries by acting like a case agent rather than just a profiler. The killer in this outing is labeled by the press "The Bakersville Burier" because the first time the police know about him is when a land owner finds two women literally up to their necks in a grave. They are nude when dug up, and everyone on the scene is shocked to see that they are vertically stuck in their final resting case. Final, at least, in the mind of the killer.

"Elizabeth Heiter has written a thriller that grabs readers from the first page.... HUNTED is a fast read because the pages fly by as the narrative gets more and more exciting and suspenseful."

As the investigation unfolds, Evelyn begins to give opinions and take on work that is not within her call to duty. Her superiors are not happy with what they perceive as a young agent pushing too hard. Is she looking for attention, or is she really incapable of controlling her instincts as a profiler and a case investigator? She is able to think like a serial killer and finds it difficult not to let her skills take her to places she is not wanted.

In HUNTED the killer is fully aware that Evelyn, the FBI and the local constabulary are on his trail. And since his victims upon whom he preys are women, Evelyn is moved to the top of his kill list. She, of course, finds this out when it is much too late. The body count is rising, and Evelyn is not really protecting herself to the degree she should.

Heiter takes readers on a suspenseful ride through the killer's mind. First, we learn that the murderer is flagellating himself for not killing the old man who owns the land used as the burial site. He says he has searched and searched for the perfect place, and now it's populated by police and FBI agents. The FBI was called in because it appears the killer crossed state lines in his binge murdering spree.

Another thread haunting Evelyn is that when she was a child out playing, her best friend was taken and never seen again. She has never forgotten how devastated she was. Whatever case she is working on, she never forgets that Cassie could be out there. Evelyn is good at her job, despite lacking confidence in other aspects of her life, including her attraction to FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Kyle McKenzie. This awkward romantic interlude is one of the many links in the book, and readers probably will see more of him as the series moves along.

Elizabeth Heiter has written a thriller that grabs readers from the first page. Those familiar with book reviews often see these words, but in this case they are spot on. HUNTED is a fast read because the pages fly by as the narrative gets more and more exciting and suspenseful. For a debut, Heiter has hit a high note right at the start of her writing career and is currently working on her second thriller, VANISHED. I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 17, 2014

by Elizabeth Heiter