Look For Me
If advertisers are to be believed, the perfect family can be obtained by making the right purchase. The right house. Right car. Right furniture. Right coffee. In her latest novel, Look for Me, Lisa Gardner explores the complex ideas of families and perfection, and how little it takes to destroy either.
This is part of a long running series but can easily be read on its own.
The story begins with a snippet of worst case scenario: a young college girl brings home a boy from the bar and wouldn’t you know it, right in the middle of sex he pulls out a knife and starts slashing away at her. Her three roommates try to help but the battle does not go in their favor. Sarah, one of the roommates, is the lone survivor of that horrible night.
The next scene in our tale is one of domestic bliss. Detective D.D. Warren, her husband Alex and their son Jack are taking advantage of a perfect fall day to go apple picking and dog shopping when the call comes. It’s a red ball, which means all hands on deck. It’s a domestic, with small bodies. Perfect fall day? D.D. should have known better than to believe any such thing exists.
When D.D. gets to the Boyd/Baez household crime scene, it’s as bad as she had feared. Man of the house gunned down in front of the TV; mom shot while putting away groceries, a can of soup lying inches from her fingers; and upstairs the most heartbreaking of all, a thirteen year-old girl wrapped around her seven year-old brother in a futile attempt to keep him safe. But there’s a problem. The oldest girl, Roxanne, and the family dogs are missing.
While D.D. works the crime scene, survivor Flora Dane races across another side of town on her morning run. Flora had once been the victim of a kidnapping, a beautiful young woman who had been dancing on a beach when a predator found her and held her for close to two years. Now she is a tough, intense fighter, running a chat group for other survivors where they can share their stories and fears. When she returns from her run and turns on the TV she gets a nasty surprise: scrolling across the screen is an amber alert for Roxanne Baez, the newest member of her support group.
D.D. isn’t pleased when Flora and another of her survivors, Sarah, push themselves into the investigation but rather than working against or around them she decides to utilize them, which is a wise move since both girls prove themselves to be surprisingly astute investigators. As they engage in a desperate hunt for a teenage girl who is either a clever perpetrator or an innocent, frightened victim they find themselves facing off against a canny, prolific killer.
Ms. Gardener is a master of her genre, a skilled artist who keeps you guessing until the very last pages. The pacing here is brilliant; you will find yourself unable to put the novel down once you begin since you will immediately become invested in the unfolding story. While the characterization of D.D. and her squad is slim (that has been handled in the previous books) Flora, Sarah, Roxanne and the other key players in the novel are excellently executed, well drawn and three dimensional. When we get to the final denouement you can’t help but think, ‘Of course! This is completely in character with all the players.’
I especially liked the fact that Flora got the chance to see the good and bad sides of the training she provides for her survivors group. Sarah has gone from shaken victim to concerned, clever and strong citizen under her tutelage. Roxanne has been given the skills needed to survive and thrive in a tough situation. But sometimes they are a tad unethical when utilizing those skills, which draws Flora up a bit short. This conundrum, of morals and not just knowledge, being part of survival is a minor but intriguing point in the text.
The fact is the book is engrossing, entertaining, well written and a sheer delight for a mystery fan to peruse. My initial reading left me blown away. But thinking about the novel just a few short hours later I found myself seriously doubting the way the domestic situation of the Baez/Boyd family was portrayed. I found Juanita Baez perhaps the most unrealistic of the characters and since many of her previous actions drive the text, that was a small weakness in the story. But while it knocks the novel down from DIK status it should in no way serve as a deterrent to other readers. This book might not be perfect but it’s damned good and you’ll be sorry if you don’t read it.
Look for Me is almost everything a mystery should be. I strongly recommend it to fans of the genre or for anyone who enjoys a good read.