Bantam Dell, July 13, 2010
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Story Overview (borrowed from Paperback Swap)
On a warm summer night in one of Boston’s working-class neighborhoods, an unthinkable crime has been committed: Four members of a family have been brutally murdered. The father—and possible suspect—now lies clinging to life in the ICU. Murder-suicide? Or something worse? Veteran police detective D. D. Warren is certain of only one thing: There’s more to this case than meets the eye.
Danielle Burton is a survivor, a dedicated nurse whose passion is to help children at a locked-down pediatric psych ward. But she remains haunted by a family tragedy that shattered her life nearly twenty-five years ago. The dark anniversary is approaching, and when D. D. Warren and her partner show up at the facility, Danielle immediately realizes: It has started again.
A devoted mother, Victoria Oliver has a hard time remembering what normalcy is like. But she will do anything to ensure that her troubled son has some semblance of a childhood. She will love him no matter what. Nurture him. Keep him safe. Protect him. Even when the threat comes from within her own house.
In Lisa Gardner’s latest book, the lives of these three women unfold and connect in unexpected ways, as sins from the past emerge—and stunning secrets reveal just how tightly blood ties can bind.
I’ve read almost all of Lisa Gardner’s books (with my favorites being her Quincy and Rainie books). Lately, though, I was wondering if she had lost her mojo. I thought her last book, The Neighbor, was just OK. But I’m nothing if not loyal (until you write at least three awful books in a row), so I thought I’d give Gardner another try. Well, I’m glad I gave Gardner the benefit of the doubt because this book was one of her better ones.
There are a lot of books out there (including Gardner’s books) that deal with twisted psyches and unimaginable violence. But what makes this book so disturbing is that it acknowledges that sometimes the twisted psyches belong to children. In her Author’s Note, Gardner talks about friends of hers who had a troubled child and their struggles to find a way to save their son. Like Gardner, I tended to believe that troubled children were that way because of abuse and neglect. It is easier to understand how children who have been beaten, abused, tortured, or neglected become violent or primal. What isn’t easy to understand is when a child with loving and attentive parents is violent. Isn’t such behavior the result of nurture … not nature? I think we all would prefer to believe this. But, as we learn throughout this book, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes children are born without the psychological make-up they need to interact appropriately with others. Mental health professionals and facilities (like the locked-down pediatric psych ward described in the book) are working with these children to help them function in society.
This is Gardner’s fourth D.D. Warren book, and I’m still unclear why D.D. is a recurring character as she doesn’t seem particularly well-developed. Four books in and all I really know about her is that she is too involved with her job to have a life. Although Gardner attempts to give Warren a bit of romance in this book, I didn’t find that storyline all that compelling, and I honestly don’t give much thought to this being “A Detective D.D. Warren Novel.” (A fact that was trumpeted across the front of my ARC.) To be honest, the characters of Danielle and Victoria were better developed than D.D.’s character. This doesn’t really detract from the book, I guess. D.D. simply functions as the reader’s way of getting information to solve the crime. Yet it seems a bit odd to create a detective and build books around her without giving her much of a personal life or back story.
My Final Recommendation
If you’re a Lisa Gardner fan, I think this was one of her better books. The story is disturbing and harrowing and will take you to places you might not want to go. If you’re a fan of disturbing, psychological mysteries, this would be an excellent choice for you. However, if these types of books aren’t your cup of tea, stay away! This book is candid in its descriptions of violent children and makes you want to take a long hot shower afterwards.
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The Whys and Wheres: I got my ARC from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I requested it because I’ve read almost all of Lisa Gardner’s books so why stop now?