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THEY NEVER LEARN by Layne Fargo: Book Review

Scarlett Clark, professor by day, killer by night.  And guess which job she enjoys more?

Scarlett has been at Gorman University for seven years, and each year she has killed a male member of the university.  Student, staff member, or professor–it doesn’t matter to her.  Her only goal is the permanent removal of a predator, a man who uses the power of his position to assault or rape.

They Never Learn is written in two voices in alternate chapters.  When we meet Scarlett in the first chapter she’s in Tyler Elkins’ garage, waiting for the university’s star quarterback to return from his morning run.  She knows very well what he’ll do when he returns; she’s been following him for weeks.

As always, he grabs a bottle of his energy drink from the garage’s mini fridge and begins to gulp it down.  This time, thanks to the special ingredient Scarlett has added, Tyler’s body begins to spasm and cramp.  While he’s writhing on the garage floor, Samantha stands over him, snaps a photo of him, adds an apologetic suicide note, and sends it to his Instagram account.

Last semester Tyler had stood watching while a number of his drunken frat brothers raped the girl they drugged; then, cold sober, he took his turn with her.  That’s what made him Scarlett’s latest victim.

Carly is beginning her freshman year at Gorman, free at last from her controlling and emotionally abusive father and her cowed and tyrannized mother.  But although she is ready for college academically, she’s not at all ready socially.

Her roommate is the beautiful and popular Allison, who for some reason is willing to take Carly under her wing and help her fit into the college girl mold.  But is that really a lucky break?

Scarlett’s revenge killings go even further back than the ones she’s committed since joining the Gorman faculty.  She’s been clever about all of them, using various methods and never choosing a man to whom she can be connected, but now she’s choosing victims closer to home.  Not surprisingly, it’s becoming more dangerous.

Halfway through the book there’s a surprise that literally made me gasp.  And They’ll Never Learn continues with one surprise after another.  The author’s ability to make the reader agree that the crimes the men have committed justify her actions is outstanding, even if this reader felt a bit guilty for that belief.

Underlying the plot is the disheartening message about how easy it is for the predators to continue their abuse, time after time, and how those in authority to whom the victims turn don’t intervene for various reasons.  Sadly, we know this is all too real, and the victims are left to feel even more betrayed by those they should be able to trust.

All the characters in the novel, both good and bad, are totally believable, and the plot pulls you along until the very end.  Layne Fargo has written an outstanding, and all too realistic, mystery.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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