In Gardner’s latest book in the Sergeant D.D. Warren series, readers return to the Boston streets as Warren again teams with Flora Dane, a former victim of a violent crime (Find Her), to track down a killer. An entire family has been murdered except the oldest daughter, Roxy. She’s missing, as are the family’s two dogs. Warren naturally pings her as suspect number one and drives the police procedural side of the book in that direction. Dane, a vigilante who understands survival instincts, uses her skills to help other survivors get back to living. She believes Roxy’s hiding from the real killer and her first person narrative takes us along as she tracks the girl.
Finding her will either mean a killer is caught, or the last living family member’s life is saved. With her familiar storytelling style Gardner tacks between Ward’s investigation into the life of her suspect, and Flora, whose dead set on finding Roxy alive and safe.
With Gardner’s hefty bibliography fans expect the twists and turns she routinely carves into her writing and Look for Me provides them in spades. Although some are predictable red herrings and dead ends, she doesn’t fail to pull the rug out from under readers and keep them guessing until the last possible moment.
In another of Gardner’s signature moves, Look for Me creates the opportunity for readers to find themselves in a moral dilemma as she zooms in on the over-crowded foster care system and the nightmares formed in a foster home packed with more than one troubled kid. Something bad is bound to happen. But could it have been prevented? And, who’s really at fault here?
Gardner’s characters are each carrying heavy baggage, and it’s their flawed natures, their need to rescue, to retaliate and to rectify that makes them dangerously unpredictable. Some characters linger with readers after the story is over. These characters haunt. Gardner’s fan base has come to expect each new book will have characters who are simultaneously victims and victimizers, and story lines that shine a light into the dark places of those characters.
The layering of subplot seamlessly stiches in hot-button topics like domestic violence and bullying, while deftly pulling back the camera before we start to suspect a sermon on morality is coming soon. Fans will recognize the strong female protagonists, the survivors and the moral struggles, and they won’t be disappointed in this fast-paced and literally right out of the headlines read.
Gardner’s respect for the suspense genre is evident throughout, and in particular in the continued unreliability of two of her ongoing character, D.D. and Flora. An author who consistently touches on topics close to her heart, Gardner’s knack for penning a taught thriller brings issues to the page that many readers can empathize with. The pacing and voice Gardner employs keeps the story vibrating with excitement, and the change in POV guarantees the reader won’t get bored or mired in one perspective.
With a passion for research and her own experience volunteering with an agency serving at-risk and special needs kids, Gardner easily articulates the sad truths of our failing foster care system. But while social issues are ever-present she still keeps the reader turning page after page to get to the final answer.