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Murder Mystery & Mayhem: Monday

My Monday Murder/Mystery Book Review:

Now that I finally have a blogging schedule, Monday of each will will feature a Murder, Mystery or Mayhem Post:

I was going to review a different book today, but I decided to wait until I have finished each of the Edgar Award nominees, before reviewing any of them. I am currently reading Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman, the last of the nominated books. I'm sure you are all aware, Live by Night, by Dennis Lehane, won best novel. I will reserve comment on my choice about the award, until my next post. 

Warning: Spoiler Alert~~ If you haven't read Touch & Go, you may want to skip my review.

Today's Monday Mystery Review: Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner

Touch & Go, by Lisa Gardner; Dutton, 400 pages, $26.95.

What does pain taste like?

Let me begin by saying that Lisa Gardner is one of my favorite authors. The woman is an incredibly talented writer who is a master at putting ordinary families through emotional and physical torture. She has a gift for writing psychological thrillers about families. When I purchased the book, I couldn't help but notice that readers either loved this particular book or found it disappointing. I am in the first group. I loved it. Touch and Go is a taut thriller, jammed packed with action and full of compelling, believable, flawed, multi dimensional characters.

One of Gardner's best qualities is her dedication to research. I read an article, about the amount of research she puts into each novel and it is astounding and admirable. She definitely knows her police procedure and forensics.

"Pain has a flavor..."
This is how Gardner begins her story and it hooked me from the beginning, just as her writing always does. The speaker is Libby Denbe and she is having dinner with her multi-millionare, handsomely rugged husband, owner of Denbe Construction. Libby recently learned that her husband Justin has been having an affair. The dinner, date night, is the couple's attempt to get past their problems and work on moving forward in their marriage. The night does not end well.

Upon returning home from dinner, Libby, Justin and their teenage daughter, Ashlyn, are terrorized (Justin & Ashlyn are tazed), kidnapped, drugged and taken to a remote hiding place, which just happens to be a state of the art prison, designed and built by none other than Denbe Construction. For funding or other reasons, the isolated prison never officially opened and it now becomes home for the captured family.

An entire family vanishes, without a trace. There is no ransom and no apparent motive. The police respond quickly and readers are treated to characters from previous novels, making their appearance. Sgt. Dee Dee Warren play a minor cameo role, but private investigator, Tessa Leoni, plays a major role in Touch and Go.

While being held captive in Denbe's state of the art- modernized prison, the family struggles to act civilly toward one another, and one by one each of their secrets rise to the surface. Libby, the beautiful, wealthy socialite is suffering withdraw symptoms. She turned to Vicodan as an escape from the pain of her husband's affair and soon became addicted. Ashlyn, their fifteen year old princess, the one thing they both still view as the best part of their marriage, isn't such a good little girl after all. Ashyln miscarries during their captivation. The father of her child is none other than daddy's right hand man.

Gardner is known for her fast paced, page turning thrillers and Touch and Go is no exception. The story's tempo is right on, the pacing is perfect and she is a master at raising the stakes at just the right time. Her plot twist (plot points & pinch points) are perfectly timed, as she is gifted in the art of story structure.

Touch and Go takes us inside the lives of a seemingly perfect family and viscerally shows us how they react to the pressure of their captivity. The characters are fleshed out, multi dimensional and above all, they are realistic and believable.  I enjoyed the vivid description of the villains (kidnappers), there are many villains in this psychological thriller.

The dialogue is emotionally gripping and often subtle. I love Gardner's style and voice and especially her dialogue. Her sentence structure is nothing short of genius, using fragmented sentences to stress points and increase tension. I like how she alternates POV characters between the third person accounts of the law enforcement investigators, the kidnappers and the first person deep point of view of Libby Denbe. It allowed me to easily connect with Libby. She was real.

Gardner does an excellent job of providing many potential suspects, each with their own motive and agenda. It keeps you guessing until the end. Speaking of that, I have to admit, I did guess Justin's involvement in the caper, but not until close to the end, when his body was taken from the crime scene. However, I was still guessing up to the very end and did not figure out the final plot twist. I've read the reviews of the readers who complained that they had it figured out (Justin's involvement), but you know what: 
That's okay, folks. It's okay to figure out who the culprit is, in a thriller. A mystery is a "who dun it." That's one of the biggest differences between a mystery and a thriller. In a thriller, we often know who the bad guy is...the question that keeps us on the edge of our seats, is not who dun it...but, will the bad guy get away with it?

 Gardner manages to keep us guessing about the identity of the bad guy(s) & whether or not they will get away with it

I have only two minor complaints about this awesome book:

1. It is quite a stretch to believe that none of the multiple law enforcement agencies, investigating the kidnapping, would have searched the properties built by Denbe Construction.

2. Libby is suffering from withdraw from pain killers and while the methadone given to her by one of her captors would certainly stave off some of those symptoms, I don't believe Libby would have been able to function as well and make such clear headed, decisive choices, those first few days without her meds.

Minor- minor, petty issues, I admit

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner is a story of greed, infidelity, selfishness  & love. What you will take away from this novel:

Appearances aren't always what they seem. You never know what goes on behind the closed doors of another's home. The obvious is often right in front of our faces and we either choose to ignore it (denial) or we don't recognize it until it's too late.

I hope to see Gardner explore the relationship between Tessa Leoni and Wyatt in her next book.

I highly recommend this psychological thriller.

Rating: A-

Gardner has an excellent set of though provoking questions on her web site, that you might want to dig into. If you are in a book club, her questions are perfect for your group discussions.

For a more in depth discussion of Touch and Go, check out Karen Ballum's book club discussion on Blogher

My favorite line: " Pain has a flavor. The question is, what does it taste like to you?" 

Photo from the above website, Blogher, with an excellent discussion of Lisa Gardner's Touch and Go.

So, what does pain taste like to you?

Me? Lemons soaked in buttermilk

Your Turn: What does Pain taste like to you?


Melissa Sugar said...

It's great when a book had lots of twists and turns that you can't guess the ending.

Melissa Sugar said...

I'm glad someone else liked it. I thought it was full of twist and it kept me on the edge of my seat.

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