Desert Isle Keeper
When You See Me
There is nothing quite like the experience of becoming completely absorbed and involved in a good book, and When You See Me, with its riveting characters and thrilling, non-stop plot is a very good book. You will want to clear a few hours of time to read this, since putting it down will not be an option.
Once upon a time there was a mamita and a chiquita. The mamita loved to cook and she loved to hum while she cooked. The chiquita loved to color. She would draw pictures and paint them in while waiting for her mother to come home from work. “Muy bonita mamita”, she would tell her mother as they did their supper dishes. “Muy linda chiquita”, her mother would say back. And they would giggle. Until the night the bad man came and shot her mother and took the little chiquita away.
Years later, hikers who go off a trail in the Appalachian Mountains discover a set of human bones. After tons of forensic work has been done and national databases checked, it is determined the remains belong to Lilah Abenito, a woman believed to have been a victim of the serial killer Jacob Ness. Having been part of the task force that killed Ness and freed the woman he was holding captive at the time, SSA Kimberly Quincy is notified of the discovery and invited to take over the investigation of the crime scene. She reaches out to three other people involved in the ongoing search for Ness’s victims: Flora Dane, his last captive; Boston Detective D.D. Warren, who helped in the apprehension of one of Ness’s partners and Keith Edgar, a brilliant computer analyst who brought to light Jacob Ness’s presence on the dark web.
If you are a fan of the author, you will recognize all four of the names in the investigative team. If this review is your first experience of Ms. Gardner’s work, I would urge you to stop here and read Alone, book one of the D. D. Warren series. This is a fantastic, not to be missed set of detective stories. That said, almost every character in this story has appeared in the previous novels in the saga and understanding how they are connected and their history with Jacob Ness is important to appreciating this tale.
Back to our narrative. Told from four different viewpoints -Kimberly, D.D.,Flora and a young woman known only as The Girl – this novel covers every aspect of a dark and startling crime. We arrive in the small town of Niche, GA with our investigators and realize almost at once that the scenic main street, while filled with charming shops and beautiful Victorian bed and breakfasts, is the home of some ugly, dangerous people. And that’s when the compulsive page turning begins – right at the start, and it doesn’t end until we have the final piece of the confounding, mind-blowing puzzle.
I won’t tell you much about the plot because mysteries are all about going on the journey of discovery for yourself. What makes this a journey worth going on though, is not just the twists and turns of the plot, but the characters. The Girl is a deeply wounded young woman who cannot speak, read or write. She is the chiquita from the start of the novel and my heart just broke seeing her go from her impoverished but loving home to the brutal conditions in which we rejoin her. But she is a strong, brave young lady with a fighter’s heart. Her past trauma and the effort to keep her secret fire hidden have shaped her into a cunning, resolute young woman. She is an unlit match in a room full of dynamite throughout the entire tale and you can’t help but wonder just what will happen when she catches fire.
Equally mesmerizing is Flora. Fans will remember the damaged, determined vigilante-turned-victim activist from Find Her, Look for Me, and Never Tell. We’ve watched her fight to find a place for herself post the horrors she suffered at the hands of serial rapist/killer Jacob Ness. She has thrived while working with D.D. on the search for his other victims and by supporting other survivors in their quest to build lives for themselves after enduring violent crimes. In this novel we watch her take the next step in her evolution as she moves forward in her budding relationship with Keith Edgar. I had my concerns when this love story was first introduced in Never Tell but in this novel I felt the relationship deepened beyond their joint obsession with hunting criminals and showed a genuine emotional connection between the characters that was lovely to see.
Equally pleasing is the opportunity to spend time once more with Kimberly and D.D.. This is Ms. Gardner’s eleventh novel featuring the intrepid Detective Warren and I can only say it is always a pleasure to spend time with her. I feel the same about Kimberly Quincy. We’ve seen her throughout the six other books in the FBI Profiler series and she is a pleasing counterpart to D.D., using charm, methodical policing and patience to counterbalance D.D.’s more intuitive, impetuous approach. I’ve enjoyed how both ladies have learned to harmonize their work and home lives. In this book, we see them receiving strength and support from phone calls to their families. Both are married to men who work in law enforcement themselves and the guys are able to provide sympathetic ears and encouraging words as the ladies relay the atrocities they’re discovering in this small, murderous community.
Ms. Gardner’s prose is always excellent and this novel is no exception. Combine that with her addictive plotting, outstanding pacing and compelling characters and you have a book that grips you from the first few pages and never lets you go. If you have enjoyed the previous volumes featuring these characters you will love When You See Me. If you haven’t read her previous works, but enjoy a good mystery, begin with Alone and work your way through the list to this one. You won’t regret it.