Desert Isle Keeper
Live to Tell
Are our childhood memories ever as accurate as we think they are? Do our minds sometimes force us to forget the unthinkable, shielding us from things that might make it hard for us to heal? Live to Tell is all about memories that destroy, but more, it is about the dangerous place that the human mind can be – especially in a child.
D.D. Warren hasn’t had an uninterrupted date in years and it looks like this night is going to be no different. Called away from a promising evening she heads straight to one of the worst type of crime scenes a police officer can encounter: A family annihilation. An initial look at the scene would point to the father as the perpetrator, but little things nag at D.D. and she continues to pull at strings that lead her to look at the youngest son, Oswald. He had spent time in a specialized psychiatric ward. Why?
Her questions lead her to the Psychiatric Evaluation Clinic of Boston. Here she meets nurse Danielle Burton, a survivor of a family annihilation – an annihilation which happened almost twenty-five years ago to the day. As more victims pile up it becomes clear that the entire crime wave circles around Danielle and her memories of a night long ago. Have the events of that summer evening made her a psychotic killer? Or a target? Will she once again be the only one to live to tell a horrifying tale?
The world of the PECB and the children who inhabit it – and the very strange place their minds can be – is what this novel is all about. This is intense and disturbing stuff, but it is also intriguing and important information. I was fascinated by everything about the special children who lived there and the people who worked with them. And like all psychological thrillers, it gave a rare and fascinating glimpse into the human mind, most especially the minds of people who have been through horrifying events and lived to bear the witness to them.
Lisa Gardner has a rare gift for writing complex characters. Her books are peopled by men and women who have the equal amounts of good and bad; real people do, and that makes her tales compelling in ways that keep you reading long after you planned to quit. Danielle is probably the epitome of such a character. She has horrific childhood memories, as anyone would have who had their family murdered in front of them. She has acted out and done some things that are not perhaps proper, but she tries to atone for them. And yet the amazing thing is that Gardner manages to make her likable even as you wonder just what role she is playing in all the violence going on. Gardner does this with all the characters, keeping us wondering who – among those with extremely difficult lives lived in PECB – has finally snapped enough to do this. Or if there is indeed outside interference.
The mystery here combines that rare aspects of both complexity and simplicity that make it both understandable and chilling. In short, it is a near perfect thriller. Almost everything about it balances ideally between the everyday world we live in and the world of unspeakable evil which dwells right beside us, often hiding in plain sight.
It is in fact difficult to describe a book which builds so beautifully on itself to reach a resolution. Mostly all I can do is gush and say that if you are a fan of intricate plotting and difficult characters against the backdrop of a criminal investigation, this read is for you. It has definitely gone on the DIK shelf for me. My very minor quibble was that compared to the darkness all around detective D.D. looks almost too bright and normal. But other than that, it is seriously near perfect.