Renowned forensics expert and professor Hannah Bryers destroyed Winter Jones's life when she was 13. Now Winter is Hannah's new teaching assistant and plans to return the favor in The Protégé, Jody Gehrman's revenge thriller. Hannah's degree in anthropology bolsters her skills as a forensic expert; law enforcement and her employer, Mad River University, revere her opinions. Although her laser-focused analyses are much lauded, her introversion and general social ineptitude result in much side-eye at faculty parties and functions. Amy and Joe, her close friends, view Hannah as endearingly vulnerable, but Winter sees this as the perfect way to destroy the professor's life and ultimately kill her--as payback for something that happened during Winter's childhood.
After becoming Hannah's teaching assistant, Winter monitors the professor's movements via tracking devices, patiently waiting for any opportunity to discredit the so-called expert. And anyone who gets in the way of Winter's insatiable need for revenge only hastens their own demise. Soon, authorities blame baffled Hannah for destroying evidence and for a nearly fatal lab explosion; she also faces murder accusations. A distraught Hannah, ostracized by the community and not knowing whom she can trust, mistakenly confides in Winter.
Gehrman (The Summer We Buried; The Girls Weekend) slowly paces Winter's diabolical plot to destroy Hannah in chapters that alternate between the two women's perspectives, and the villain's identity is obvious from the beginning. Still, the novel retains its nail-biting suspense as readers race to understand Winter's motivations and how--even if--she will succeed with her plan. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer