Still See You Everywhere
Grade : C-

Still See You Everywhere is the third book in the Frankie Elkin series, and deals with a serial killer, her sister, and a remote location that only looks like paradise from a distance.

Perpetually broke, homeless, recovering alcoholic Frankie “has a gift for finding missing people,” which is why she is visiting the Mount View Unit prison in Gatesville, TX. The Beautiful Butcher, aka Kaylee Pierson, has been scheduled for execution, which is only to be expected when the police can prove you killed eighteen people and have serious suspicions that the body count is even higher. The half-Polynesian Kaylee, who asks to be called by her Hawaiian name Keahi, has a last request. She wants to rescue her sister, who was abducted at the age of five. With only twenty-one days to live, Keahi has finally received a clue as to the whereabouts of Leilani. She’s with the fabulously wealthy tech mogul Sanders MacManus, the ex who once put Keahi in the hospital, and the Beautiful Butcher has no intention of leaving her sister in that situation.

Frankie walked into the jail fully intending to say no to Keahi’s request - or so she claims. But the idea of actually finding someone alive, rather than just discovering how they died, has her taking the case against her better judgment. Her best bet for making contact is finding Sanders, who will hopefully have the now seventeen-year-old girl with him, as he works on his latest vanity project - a hotel on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific. The plan is simple: Frankie has no digital footprint (or at least not much of one) that would make MacManus suspicious and is precisely the kind of person currently working on the island: vagrant, desperate, and with the sort of moderate hospitality skills (bartending, short-order cook, etc.) that an isolated construction crew needs to stay fed and hydrated.

The drawback is that the island has no real cell service, so Frankie will be limited in getting word back to Keahi (or, more accurately, back to her look-alike lawyer, Victoria Twanow). And the place is occasionally beset by storms, which will make it even harder for help to arrive. (Cue the Jurassic Park theme music.)

Before I was fifteen percent into this book, my head was exploding. The setup of how Keahi lost Leilani is ludicrous. We are meant to believe that a woman who researched how to get away with her crimes never once tried to locate a man who was predominantly in the public eye. We are asked to accept that in spite of the fact she was so badly beaten as to be in the hospital, the police would have looked at Sanders’ damaged face (easily explained as self-defense) and blamed her for the altercation. Most mysteries hinge a bit on the reader believing the unbelievable, but this one is straight-up ridiculous. It would be a spoiler to tell you how Sanders and Leilani recall that initiating event, but suffice it to say their story/reasoning is as bonkers as Keahi’s. Believing that Frankie and Victoria are intelligent women when they take the word of a proven psychopath with the world’s most questionable story as proof of sinister events was simply impossible.

Frankie’s arrival on the island is met with skepticism for the simple reason that it looks extremely suspicious. She is missing oodles of paperwork that would have been required for her even to be hired. This is dealt with utilizing the kind of logic you typically only find in books. Frankie settles in and waits to make contact with Leilani. Once she does, she finally figures out something highly dubious and possibly dangerous is happening (no, really?), and shortly after that, all hell breaks loose.

There are a few good points to this book. In the brief period Frankie is on the island prior to meeting Leilani, we get a description of the environs, a bit about its ecosystem, and find out just how one goes about building in a remote location. All of that is utterly fascinating, and the author excels at giving us lush, detailed depictions of the area and the local animal life. I was utterly engrossed in that portion of the tale.

Ms. Gardener also does a nice job with the secondary characters. We get a good sense of who each of them is as well as why they are there, and they fit well into the storyline as it progresses.

I also appreciated that, faced with skilled, clever villains, Frankie proves painfully bad at figuring out what is happening. When you aren’t trained for that sort of work, it is only natural you will make a mess of any investigation you try to do. That happens quite a few times here.

My quibbles are plentiful, though. The setup, as mentioned previously, would be hard for an idiot to believe. The plotting never gets better, and we move from one deus ex machina to the next. I was driven crazy by people spilling their guts when Frankie asked clunky, obvious fishing-for-information-type questions. Victoria’s naiveté was challenging to accept, as was much that happens surrounding her. The ending makes zero sense, given how hard our mastermind has worked to set everything up.

In my review of the first book in this series, Before She Disappeared, I mentioned that the tale contained a hint of white savior complex. That was gone in book two but is back in full force here. Kehai is scornful of the Honolulu police, saying, “Do you know how many native Hawaiian girls disappear each year? Versus how many they bother to look for, let alone find?” I checked, and as of 2021, 12% of Honolulu’s police force identifies as white – while 21% identify as Native Hawaiian, 9% Filipino, 14% Japanese, 1% Black, and 10% mixed. There are problems all across the U.S. regarding searching for and finding missing minority children; however, I found it disturbing that a minority-majority police force was disparaged so that a white woman could swoop in and save the day. There are many Hawaiians actively working on the missing/exploited children issue right now. Kehai and Victoria, minority women themselves, couldn’t have turned to one of them? The only two other characters who actively help settle the problem are also white. Given that Leilani is Polynesian and that there are other native characters on the island, I just found the whites-save-the-day tenor of the tale disquieting.

Lisa Gardener is one of my favorite mystery writers, but this is perhaps the worst of her books I have read. I suggest getting Still See You Everywhere from the library if you are interested in keeping up with the series. Otherwise, give it a miss.

Reviewed by Maggie Boyd
Grade : C-
Book Type: Mystery | Suspense

Sensuality: N/A

Review Date : March 30, 2024

Publication Date: 03/2024

Review Tags: Frankie Elkin series

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Maggie Boyd

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.
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