An 11-Book series (so far) by Lisa Gardner that you can really get your teeth into.

Over the past few months I’ve been re-reading some books by my favourite author, Lisa Gardner, who has a long series of thrillers and detective stories to her name.

Gardner has this neat trick of changing detective after half a dozen books. She doesn’t abandon her original protagonist but introduces a new character and gradually lets them take centre stage. This works amazingly well. First there was the FBI profiler Pierce Quincy; then his daughter Kimberley (also an FBI agent), and the state trooper, Bobby Dodge, who has been followed by D D Warren, who is the current central character.

D D Warren is a police detective in Boston, pretty as a picture and tough as old boots. The series started in 2005 with Alone and in Find Her (Book 8) Gardner introduced the character of Flora Dane, who is a survivor and vigilante, and now D D’s confidential informant.

Find Her
In this book D D first meets Flora standing naked and bound over the dead body of a rapist. D D and the police know that she killed this man after using herself as bait. But they can’t prove it. Later a college student goes missing. Flora eventually finds her and with D D’s help rescues her. It’s during the course of the book we learn Flora’s story.

The background
Seven years earlier and while on spring break, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped by a sexual predator, serial rapist and killer, called Jacob Ness. Ness was a long-distance truck driver, who kept Flora in a box or in abandoned rooms, repeatedly abusing her, always threatening to kill her and ‘feed her body to the gators’ unless she pleased him.  She never knew from one day to the next if she would live or die. But she did survive – for 472 days – until the FBI, personified by SA Kimberley Quincey, found her and killed Ness. But during her ordeal Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Back home Flora struggles to adjust and becomes a vigilante. She’s always on the look-out for predators and has a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who never made it back. She uses herself as bait to lure the predators out from the shadows. She also runs a self-help group for other survivors, teaching them the skills to not just survive but also live, something she herself can’t quite learn to do.

Look for Me
This is Book 9 in the series and the story centres around a girl who is on the run after her whole family has been gunned down. Is she a potential victim, or is she the killer of her family? D D has the case and Flora becomes involved because the girl had once approached her self-help group asking them for help. It’s in this book that D D makes Flora her Confidential Informant because, as she says: Flora can go places and approach people, whom D D can’t go near. They eventually find the girl and learn what happened. During the course of the book we are introduced to one of the most horrible foster home situations I have ever read about. We are also introduced to Latino gangs and their power.

Never Tell
Book 10 is my favourite in the series so far. The story starts with a dead man, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun. D D recognises the woman from an old case many years back, and Flora Dane knows that her kidnapper knew the victim. The mystery is intriguing, with lots of twists and turns, and as D D and Flora work together to get to the truth they develop a growing respect for each other.There are also signs in this book that Flora is beginning to learn not just to survive but also to live. She deserves it.

When You See Me
This is the latest book, published earlier this year, and it’s a truly absorbing read. It’s another excellent and twisty, dark story that brings together several characters from the previous books. Flora has always known there were many more victims of Jacob Ness, and D D and FBI agent Kimberly Quincy believe her. And they’ve spent some considerable time putting together a taskforce to follow Ness’s trail in an attempt to find these victims. When the trail leads to a remote corner of Georgia, they ask Flora to accompany them plus Keith, a true crime buff, super-hacker par excellence and Flora’s possible boyfriend. There they find a deeply wrong small town, eerie and sinister, where Ness once moved freely. And they find that for all the evil Ness committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed. Flora must look her own past squarely in the face if she is to save other victims.

The series
Lisa Gardner’s books are a combination of thriller, police procedural and mystery; and they are well written. The clues to the perpetrator are always there, although sometimes very well hidden. I like D D with her bulldog-like approach to her cases. She has a husband who is a lecturer in criminology and a young son, and we learn just enough about her private life to make her a real person, but not too much. She has a team of detectives who are like her other family. And she always gets the criminal.

And I like Flora. Her ordeal at the hands of Jacob Ness has shaped her. She’s a woman who sees evil everywhere, who is so unsettled that she has five locks on her door, who hardly sleeps or eats, and is obsessed with rooting out others like Ness. At the same time, she’s haunted by thoughts of Ness’s other victims, the ones who didn’t come home. Ness forged her from a carefree, happy college student into a woman made of steel.

I like the writing. The stories are as much about the relationship between the recurring characters: D D, her team, her family, Flora and her family as they are about the crime. We also get a good, clear picture of the one-time characters – victims,, killers and the incidentals. I rate all these books between 4 and 5 Stars.
Review by: Freya