In her tenth full-length novel featuring Detective D.D. Warren, author Lisa Gardner immerses her readers in a fast-paced and twisty mystery involving a man fatally shot in his home. D.D. is no stranger to crimes like these, but what sets this particular homicide apart from the many others she’s worked on is the fact that the victim’s laptop computer had been shot a total of twelve times. Evie Carter was married to the deceased, and when police arrive on the scene, she’s found holding the gun. What possible reason could Evie have for killing her husband and then turning her fire on the computer?
D.D. has a long and complicated history with Evie. Years before, Evie’s father was the victim of a fatal shooting that was eventually ruled an accident, but D.D. has never forgotten Evie and has never completely come to terms with the way that particular case was put to rest. She’s always had questions about the woman, and now, she just might get the chance to have them answered once and for all.
Also investigating the crime is Flora Dane, a survivor of a horrific kidnapping who has turned her attention to helping other survivors of violent crimes pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. It seems that Evie’s dead husband might have a long-buried link to Flora’s own past, and she’s determined to uncover the truth.
Reviewers Shannon Dyer and Maggie Boyd sat down to discuss Never Tell, and are here to share their thoughts on the novel.
Shannon: I’m a long-time fan of Ms. Gardner’s writing in general and her D.D. Warren books in particular. I find this series to be one of the most consistently well-done group of books I’ve come across in a while. How do you feel about the series as a whole?
Maggie: I love the D.D. Warren series and typically find the books completely mesmerizing and delightfully chilling.
Shannon: We’ve seen D.D. undergo a great deal of personal growth as the series has progressed. She doesn’t always handle change gracefully, but she manages to get the job done. How did you feel about D.D.’s hands-approach to this investigation even though she was supposed to be taking a more supervisory role?
Maggie: I never expected D.D. to truly become a supervisor and always anticipated her having a hands-on approach, so this worked perfectly for me. D.D.’s personality is very direct and action/results oriented, so I can’t see her doing things any other way.
Shannon: I enjoy the glimpses we get into D.D.’s home life. I love watching her spend time with Jack and Alex, but I know some readers have been a little disappointed to see so much of her softer side. How do you feel about this side of D.D.’s nature?
Maggie: I think the author is doing an excellent job of managing this. There is bound to be an overlap between our work and home lives since they affect each other, so it’s good to see that aspect of D.D.. I honestly don’t think the D.D. before Alex and Jack would have worked well with Flora Dane. On the other hand, this series is very much a police procedural, so too much of the home life would change the nature of the series. IMO, the author has a perfect combination going right now.
Shannon: Let’s talk a bit about Flora Dane. Her character intrigued me from the very first time I met her In Find Me, and my strange infatuation with her has only grown in subsequent books. There’s a certain raw vulnerability that peeks through her super tough exterior that I find kind of endearing. What are your thoughts on Flora?
Maggie: I adored Flora when I met her in Find Me and have been enthralled by her journey back into ‘normal’ life. That said, I was conflicted by her inclusion in this tale and felt very uncomfortable with the Jacob Ness expert that she connected with towards the end. I couldn’t imagine that person ever seeing her as something more than the survivor of a particularly nasty monster and so felt uncomfortable with that relationship.
Shannon: That’s a good point. That relationship thread was a bit on the odd side.
I don’t want to focus too much on Evie, since that could lead to spoilers, but how did you feel about her in general? Was she a character you could relate to?
Maggie: I think many women would be able to relate to the mother/daughter dynamic Evie had with her parent, but I was flummoxed by her marriage. That she and her husband confided so little in each other made me wonder what glue was holding the relationship together. She was also just not a very compelling character; she was basically a guest appearance in her own life. She didn’t even qualify as co-star in the investigation since her lawyer, mother, D.D., Flora and a host of others outshone her.
Shannon: That’s pretty much how I felt about her as well. She provided a bit of a diversion from some of the heavy investigative work going on in the story, and some readers might find that refreshing. However, I would have liked her more if she had taken a more front-and-center role in her life, rather than sitting back and just sort of observing.
Let’s talk about the mystery aspect of the novel. I wasn’t as gripped by this case as I have been by previous cases D.D. has worked on. I was able to figure out where the plot was headed pretty early on, and that disappointed me a little bit. Still, I enjoyed watching D.D. and Flora figure out what I already knew, so I can’t in good conscience count this as a loss. What about you?
Maggie: I definitely guessed key points early on in the story, which kept me from getting completely caught up in this novel. I think one of the big problems with the plot was the Jacob Ness tie-in that Flora brought to the story. That aspect of the tale loomed much larger than the simple case of whether or not Evie killed her husband and whether or not she was justified in doing so.
Shannon: What’s your final grade? I’m going with a B since I wasn’t as wowed by the mystery as I was hoping I’d be, but the book is still a solid addition to the series.
Maggie: My final grade is also a B. This story felt too distracted, like it couldn’t decide if it was about Evie or about an additional investigation into Jacob Ness. It was a good book, a solid series addition but I could never recommend it on its own merits. It simply wouldn’t appeal to people who aren’t already fans of the characters.