THE OWL ALWAYS HUNTS AT NIGHT by Samuel Bjork
Penguin Books; 6/6/17
CBTB Rating: 3.5/5
The Verdict: a solid series installment
Samuel Bjork’s U.S. debut I’M TRAVELING ALONE is one of my favorite books, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating Book 2 in the series, THE OWL ALWAYS HUNTS AT NIGHT, for ages now. I was absolutely thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy of it this spring. While this book didn’t live up to its predecessor for me, I still thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it for fans of I’M TRAVELING ALONE who want to spend more time in Mia Kruger’s world.
THE OWL ALWAYS HUNTS AT NIGHT finds star investigator Mia Kruger on temporary leave while she continues to battle the demons that plagued her throughout I’M TRAVELING ALONE. When the body of a teenage girl is found lying on a bed of feathers in a ritualistic display, chief investigator Holger Munch knows he needs Mia’s brilliant mind to solve this disturbing case. Meanwhile, Munch’s daughter Miriam meets an enticing man—an animal rights activist who offers her re-entry into a world she thought she had left behind when she became a mother. Told through interweaving storylines, THE OWL ALWAYS HUNTS AT NIGHT follows investigators Mia and Munch as they try to immerse themselves in the mind of a killer, and catch him before he can strike again.
The best part of this book really is the relationship between Mia and Munch. I absolutely love the repartee these two have—I would read any book featuring them. On the one hand, we have Mia: a troubled, burdened, brilliant young woman. Mia’s adult life is defined by the loss of her sister, who died of a drug overdose years before. Her grief is all-consuming, driving her to the brink of suicide. As an investigator, she is brilliant. Her empathy and intelligence make her uniquely able to put herself in the place of perpetrators and victims alike, giving her deep insight into each case she encounters. I absolutely love the character of Mia, and I love that Bjork hasn’t shied away from writing a female protagonist who is unabashedly dark and complex.
On the other hand, we have Munch: an older, fatherly investigator who leads a unit of homicide investigators. Munch is an endearing curmudgeon. His personal life is in tatters—he is still in love with his ex-wife, and he has realized how much he neglected his family for his job. He recognizes Mia’s brilliance while she’s at the police academy, and snatches her up for his homicide squad. Munch is protective of Mia in a totally endearing way. He looks out for Mia, pulling her back from her most desperate moments and tasking her with cases that allow her to exercise her brain. Munch is a steady counterpoint to Mia’s turmoil.
Admittedly, there were some aspects of this book that didn’t work for me as well as they did in I’M TRAVELING ALONE. (It’s impossible to avoid comparison between the two books!) While I absolutely loved being back in Munch and Mia’s world, the mystery central to this case didn’t quite click with me. The case starts off with a bang: the discovery of a young woman’s body, displayed on a bed of feathers. But from there, it becomes a bit convoluted. Without spoiling anything, there are two threads that develop in order to explain the killer’s motives, and they just weren’t quite logical to me. They each would have worked on their own, but when combined, I just didn’t quite buy it.
Beyond my issue with the killer’s motives, I felt a certain lack of urgency with this mystery that I didn’t feel in I’M TRAVELING ALONE. I can’t quite put my finger on it, I just didn’t feel fully invested in the investigation of this story’s central crime. In I'M TRAVELING ALONE, I was completely glued to the pages, hooked on its rich cast of characters who all contributed to its central mystery; in this book, while I still enjoyed the mystery at its core, I just wasn't emotionally invested in it. It's worth noting that the final fifteen to twenty pages of this book were absolutely addictive—I finally got the urgency that I was hoping for throughout in these last pages! I just hoped for more of that same addictive quality earlier on in the story. For me, this book was all about reuniting with Munch and Mia—a reading experience that I fully enjoyed in its own right.
All in all, I enjoyed THE OWL ALWAYS HUNTS AT NIGHT. It was truly fantastic to be back in Mia and Munch’s world—and this book ended on a cliffhanger that has me absolutely dying to read the next series installment, despite my issues with certain aspects of this story. If you’re a fan of I’M TRAVELING ALONE, you will love being reunited with Mia and Munch. If you’re new to the series, I would not recommend starting with this book—you won’t have any trouble jumping into the series here, but you will miss out on what I consider the superior book of the two. THE OWL ALWAYS HUNTS AT NIGHT might not be quite as addictive or compelling as I’M TRAVELING ALONE, but it’s a very solid installment in Bjork’s series.
THE OWL ALWAYS HUNTS AT NIGHT by Samuel Bjork
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (June 6, 2017)
Amazon buy link here
If you're interested in learning more about I'M TRAVELING ALONE, check out my review of this fantastic read below. I'M TRAVELING ALONE is still one of my favorite books—it's such an impressive crime novel, and I absolutely couldn't put it down.