A dead husband, a missing daughter, and two women battling each other for the truth.
In Gardner’s latest, Detective DD Warren of the Boston Police is called to the home of state police trooper Tessa Leoni. Leoni’s covered in bruises, and her husband’s lying dead with three bullets from her service Sig Sauer pistol in his chest. Worst of all, her six year-old daughter is missing. What looks like an open-and-shut case of domestic-violence-turned-fatal soon becomes a nightmare race against time.
This is a pacy, tightly plotted thriller very much in the Harlan Coben vein. Interestingly, Gardner splits the narrative into chapters that alternate between the police and the suspect’s points-of-view. It’s an effective device that gives Gardner plenty of opportunity to flesh out the characters of the two antagonists, and to drip-feed the reader clues that Warren’s investigation hasn’t necessarily got all the evidence. As the woman charged with killing her husband and daughter, Leoni makes for a fascinating character, the classic unreliable narrator, and Gardner’s deft at keeping the reader guessing about the truth of what she’s done.
Everything hinges on the missing daughter, and Leoni’s baffling refusal to tell the police where she is – or even if she’s alive. Parenthood is the theme that runs through this book like a stick of rock: every character is motivated, one way or another, by the things they’d do for their children, or that were done to them as children. Tying it together is Detective Warren, a tough, unsentimental cop for whom the mystery of maternal love is rather more perplexing than the complexities of the case. Ultimately, she needs to understand both to make progress: it’s a journey that Gardner handles with honesty and skill.
It’s a tribute to Lisa Gardner’s writing that I didn’t realise until the acknowledgments that this is the fifth book in a series featuring Detective DD Warren. The story and the characters stand perfectly well on their own, leading the reader through a satisfying maze of twists and turns, constantly undercutting expectations. Perfect holiday reading – though you won’t want to let your kids out of your sight.