Six and a half years ago, Flora Dane disappeared. Kidnapped from a beach during spring break, she spent 472 days with her captor until she was rescued. Needless to say, she was not the same person as she was before her ordeal.
Five years later and she is taken once again – but this time it seems to be on her own terms. She has prepared for this day and her attacker comes off the worse, never expecting the woman to fight back. Detective D.D. Warren, currently sidelined to restricted duties, doesn’t know whether Flora should be treated as the victim of a sexual predator or as the vigilante killer of one.
But then Flora vanishes again – and this time, she’s not in control…
First mystery of the book – where did my review copy come from? It’s always nice to get review material through the post, but usually I expect them – so I was a bit baffled when I opened a package from Headline to find this. I’ve finally worked it out – Headline and Hodder & Stoughton are the same company (ish) and I’ve reviewed stuff for them before – notably Dead Pretty by David Mark. It did baffle me for a mo, but never look a gift book in the mouth.
I’ve not come across Lisa Gardner’s work before – I’ve seen her books on the shelves of Waterstones, but, as I’m more of a mystery reader than a thriller reader, I tended to skip over them. Not that I don’t like a good thriller, but usually I get hooked on a thriller author when I stumble across one of their books rather than seeking them out. Usually this means being somewhere without a book and with a limited selection. Hence Jeffrey Deaver (Boston airport, if I recall correctly) or Lee Child (WHSmiths in a train station somewhere). Or, on occasion, when someone sends me a free book through the post…
And on the strength of this book, it’s certainly not the last book by Lisa Gardner that I’ll be reading. It’s an utterly gripping and chilling piece of work without ever degenerating into unnecessary detail. And given the subject matter, that’s an impressive feat.
It’s told in three tranches – Flora’s description of her 472 day ordeal (and detailing this without being gratuitous is quite a feat), her description of her present ordeal and the investigation (told in the third person) focussing on D.D. Warren. The pieces from Flora’s point of view, as her situation worsens in both past and present, gets right under your skin – obviously I’m not giving any detail here for fear of spoilers – but I’m presuming that this survivor’s tale is based in part on real accounts of abduction victims. By telling the tale from the victim’s point of view rather than the abductor (which, to be honest, would have been horrible to read), you can begin to understand some of her actions.
The present day ordeal is creepy as hell too, with the tension cranking up as Flora realises that this isn’t some everyday loony who has taken her, but someone willing to play mind-games with her for some reason. I won’t say more about that, but there are a couple of great surprises in this section.
The section featuring the series regular D.D. Warren is the weakest strand, as you find yourself wanting to get back to Flora’s tale as soon as possible, but it’s necessary to have a break from the tension as you go along. And at the end of the day, it is a whodunit (not a classically clued one, but it’s a good reveal) and it kept me from putting it down for the best part of today.
If I had to niggle, one aspect of the ending felt a bit like a TV cop show, but the final chunk of Flora’s thoughts more than made up for it. You feel by the end of the book that you’ve come to know this woman, whose ordeal you try, and probably fail, to empathise with, given how far removed it is from (I hope) anything you’ve experienced. It’s a strong thriller with a clever plot, both in structure and in its twists and turns. This certainly won’t be the last of Lisa Gardner’s books that I’ll be reading.
It’s out on Tuesday 9th February in the UK from Headline. And it’s (rather obviously) Highly Recommended.
Stuck in an airport/railway station with only a limited selection of reading material on offer? Ah, the beauty of an e-reader…
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Only Wi-Fi on my Kindle… but both those cases were pre-technology
One of the reasons I gave in and bought a Kindle was that it gave me a way of reading all those books I downloaded from Project Gutenberg, in comfort. What with that, and my naughty Amazon book buying habit, mine’s got around 600 books on it now. I’ll get around to them all someday…
I’m sure I’ve read a Lisa Gardner, some time ago… can’t remember which one. Like you I am not much of a reader of thrillers – particularly American ones – but I do remember it as a reasonably good read, a bit like Mary Higgins Clark but with a slightly harder edge.
I’ve read and enjoyed several of Gardner’s books. I may keep an eye out for this.
Any recommendations for other titles – for when I start buying books again.
It’s a decade or more since I read any of her work — my tastes have become quirkier (hm, sounds bad, I know) — so memory’s a bit hazy. What I do recall is that her novels seemed a definite cut above those of most of the rest of a group of female US thriller-writers who were all scoring New York Times bestsellers at about the same time. It was like there was a fashion for that particular combination at the time: US female author, thriller. Quite a few of them were pretty formulaic and some were downright naff, but Gardner and one two others were producing more interesting stuff.
I remember very much enjoying Alone. I also enjoyed The Survivors Club although, if memory serves, it began to fall apart a bit toward the end. I probably read and liked two or three others, but memory insists that Alone was the standout.
I know what you mean. There are a couple of very well selling authors that I tried (pre-blog) but really couldn’t see the appeal. This book is distinctly better
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