Killer Instinct by Barbara WinkesKiller Instinct by Barbara Winkes is an engaging thriller of the tormented-protagonist variety.

Joanna is a former cop who went rogue and paid her debt to society. Now she’s trying to live a normal life with job that requires physical labor and little thought. Regular visits to a local bar help her find cheap solace in one-night stands with women who don’t expect a second date. But just as she meets Rue, a woman she’s finally interested in for more than just one night, the past catches up. A serial killer has an M.O. similar one of her old cases. Joanna can’t leave the case alone. Or is it the other way around? Will Joanna and Rue get to see their love blossom, or will the case get in the way?

The Characters

I don’t care much for “broken” characters as protagonists, but Joanna is well-developed. I found myself caring about her. Rue is a sweet, strong woman who just may be able to turn Joanna’s life around.

Joanna’s former colleagues on the force could use her help, as much as they hate to admit it. They still care for her but are conflicted about her rogue past.

Vanessa, the Internal Affairs cop who put Joanna behind bars, ends up developing a special bond with her. Unlikely as that seems, the relationship seems to work.

The suspects are realistic, if creepy, but they’d have to be given the nature of their crimes.

The Writing Style

The pacing and plot move along well, but I found myself occasionally backtracking on dialogue to keep the characters straight.

The first half of the book is a bit heavy on backstory and exposition, but the author hits her stride in the second half where relationships are depicted realistically, and the pace picks up.

The Pros

I liked the portrayal of Joanna’s relationship with her former colleagues, especially, Vanessa from Internal Affairs. The relationship is complex and never sounds trite. The relationship with Rue is also depicted with some growth and not rushed.

The Cons

Trigger warnings: sexual violence against women, ritualistic violence, homophobic father.

The Conclusion

For fans of serial killer mysteries who enjoy creepy, disturbing violence.

Excerpt from Killer Instinct by Barbara Winkes

Oh God.


It didn’t mean he was back. It didn’t mean he ever stopped. It wasn’t her job.

She called Vanessa on her cell and landline, and as expected, both calls went to a voicemail.

“Call me back when you get this. I need to ask you a favor.”

In the past, she would have gone back to the station and look up those files herself, but of course she couldn’t do that. It was a question whether Vanessa would be willing to go look for answers that would make Joanna sleep better, but she’d take that chance. If anything, Vanessa could pass on the information to the investigating detectives. Someone had to look into that connection.

That someone wouldn’t be her, because she had to be at the warehouse early for the double shift she’d signed up for.

At least, one of the other drivers could give her Nate’s number, another avenue to pursue.

Joanna didn’t have many illusions left, but if she got this wrong, she’d never be able to forgive herself.

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