As Agent Nadine Finch rushes to investigate the murder of newlywed Nikki Darnell in Ocala National Forest, Florida, fear floods her body. She swore she’d never set foot here again, not since the case fifteen years ago that tore her life apart. But taking in the triangular cuts scarring Nikki’s perfect pale skin, she knows she must put her own traumatic past aside to find justice for Nikki’s inconsolable husband.
Discovering water in Nikki’s lungs and certain the triangular wounds were made by arrowheads, Nadine must convince her team of her terrifying theory: that Nikki was hunted down and drowned before being left for them to find. But what monster would do such a thing? And why? Then another woman, a mother of two, is discovered in the woods, tell-tale arrow marks all over her body.
Recognizing the victim as a local waitress, Nadine fears the killer has started attacking women known to her. And the moment she traces the arrowheads to a nearby outdoors store, her own partner disappears.
Frantic, Nadine follows the trail to a lonely cabin deep in the Florida wetlands where she finally learns the heart-stopping truth. To save one of her own, she must confront a deadly hunter obsessed with the case that’s haunted her whole career. Will Nadine have to make the ultimate sacrifice to stop him taking more innocent lives?
Jenna Kernan recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, THE HUNTED GIRLS:
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
As this is a series, I was lucky enough to begin writing book two with all my main characters firmly grounded with backstory and unique personalities. The setting presented the most difficulty because the Ocala National Forest is really a main character in THE HUNTED GIRLS, and trying to capture the uniqueness of this place is challenging.
The six hundred miles of wilderness includes rivers, lakes, natural springs, state parks, and even a bombing range still used by the US military. The beauty of the wilderness and diversity of wildlife make the forest a perfect spot for hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, and going missing. Lots of people do. Look it up. You’ll be surprised at the number of headlines that begin with bodies found in the forest.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
It was tricky capturing the contrast between the beauty and danger of Florida. This popular vacation destination is not all white sand beaches, theme parks, cartoon mice, wizards, and margaritas. The warm climate that lures beach lovers quickly rots dead things. The lakes, rivers and wetlands breed millions upon millions of mosquitoes. Saltwater is lovely but undrinkable. Alligators, changeable weather, riptides, dangerous waves, and boater inexperience make Florida the unexpected spot for many guests’ last vacation.
I love Florida’s outdoor spaces and often kayak, hike, swim, and boat. But that love comes with a healthy dose of respect. I keep my distance from wild creatures. I wear sunscreen, a hat, long sleeves, and often a buff. In addition, I always carry water and bug repellent. Like with all unfamiliar places, it’s best to be prepared and stay on the path.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
In Book One, A Killer’s Daughter, I introduced Dr. Nadine Finch, the forensic psychologist turned FBI profiler who has a unique insight on killers having been raised by one. She is the daughter of an infamous female serial killer and in Book Two, THE HUNTED GIRLS, Nadine continues to consult with her mother and pursue her own personal hunt to find the father who abandoned them when she was born.
Publishers Weekly bestselling author Jenna Kernan is a two-time RITA nominee, Silver Falchion nominee, and winner of the Book Buyers’ Best award. Jenna has penned over 35 books. Look for her new police-procedural thriller series, A Killer’s Daughter and THE HUNTED GIRLS, featuring a criminal psychologist facing a series of murders on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Follow Jenna on BookBub.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit her website.