One Step Too Far
One Step Too Far is the second book in Lisa Gardner’s Frankie Elkin series. You don’t have to read the first novel (Before She Disappeared) to follow this one, but it does contain spoliers for the previous book.
As wild bachelor parties go, it wasn’t much of one. Just some guys, some brews, some tents and a whole lot of the Wyoming wilderness. But sometime in the night, one of the groomsmen wanders off and groom-to-be Tim O’Day, the only experienced woodsman in the group, sets off to find him – and disappears himself. Search parties go out, the original missing man is found – but five years later Tim is still missing without a trace.
Frankie Elkin looks for missing people. When the search parties have stopped, when the police budget doesn’t allow for more man hours – that’s when Frankie steps in. She reads in the paper that Tim’s mother is dying, that her only wish is to be buried near her son, that his father Martin is launching one final search to bring his boy back, and Frankie makes a snap decision to join the recovery party to find Tim’s remains. She jumps on the next bus headed toward Ramsey, Wyoming. She doesn’t have much wilderness experience but she’s darn good at locating misplaced humans.
Frankie’s journey begins on an ominous note. Hitching a ride from the bus station to the diner where the search is being launched, she learns from the local giving her a lift that a lot of people go missing in those particular woods. Be careful, she is advised. Be wary. There is an unnamed danger stalking the area.
It isn’t long before Frankie can give first hand testimony to that fact. Once they head out, their party faces obstacle after obstacle until it is all too clear that theirs is an ill fated expedition. The question now isn’t whether or not they will find Tim’s remains. It is whether or not they themselves will become the subjects of a missing person search – and if so, will it be down to bad luck or is someone deliberately sabotaging the team?.
Ms. Gardner, as always, does a fabulous job with her pacing, moving us along so briskly in the story that it is an almost non-stop adrenaline ride. Moments where she gets bogged down by the difficulties of roughing it in the Wyoming mountains/woods can slow the story down on occasion but the action is so addictive the reader can power through those easily even if they, like me, aren’t that fond of survival in the wild-style details.
The secondary characters are brilliantly handled. Frankie is part of a search party of eight – three of the original bachelor party (Scott, Miguel and Neil), Martin, Luciana and her cadaver dog Daisy, Bob (a bigfoot hunter who is more at home in nature than the city) and guide Nemeth. Each has a unique, well-drawn personality and the author does a fabulous job of utilizing the situation they are in to show us who they are, help us see how they fit together and let that knowledge influence how we see the events unfolding. We are attached to them and worried for them as the unknown danger stalks them along their journey, but we are also suspicious of them, especially the three friends from the original camping trip. Is one of them the reason Tim didn’t come home? And if so, why?
Frankie is her usual irascible, tenacious self. She solves crimes by being methodical but also by a near magical gift of being able to tell when people are lying to her and manuvering them into a position where they want to tell her the truth. The setting of rough, dangerous terrain and forced intimacy due to being the only eight people for miles and miles plus the natural tensions in the group set Frankie up for some natural – and very enlightening – tête-à-têtes.
My only complaint with the story is the believability factor regarding the finale. I obviously can’t go into details about the ending but I could only think as I finished the book that it was completely unrealistic and unbelievable. Completely. I didn’t even have to take a moment to think about it – as I read it, I was thinking, “Nope.”
Fortunately, that’s just the last few pages. For the large bulk of the book One Step Too Far is a fascinating, engrossing, thrilling and chilling mystery that will keep you reading late into the wee hours. I recommend it to fans of the author as well as anyone who enjoys a good suspense story.
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I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.