Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Catch Me" by Lisa Gardner

At the scene of a crime involving a murdered pedophile, Detective D.D. Warren encounters Charlie Grant, who has the most unusual request. Two of her best friends from school have each been murdered on January 21, a year apart. Charlie is convinced that she is next, and January 21 is only a few days away. She wants D.D. to investigate her murder once it happens and solve the mystery once and for all. In the meantime, she has been studying self-defence and target practice in the hope that she can put up one hell of a fight when the time comes.

D.D. isn't sure that she can trust Charlie. The woman has huge gaps in her memory as a result of blocking out most of her childhood as the victim of a mother with Munchausen By Proxy syndrome. She also works as a police dispatcher, which just happens to give her access to the details of criminals - maybe including all these pedophiles turning up dead? Both women must dig into the past to find out what connects the murders of Charlie's friends and the deaths of the pedophiles before January 21 rolls around.

After the disappointments of "Live To Tell" and "Love You More", "Catch Me" is a real return to form for Lisa Gardner. It's a well-written, tightly plotted thriller with several surprises up its sleeve. The character of D.D. Warren is not nearly as irritating and abrasive as she has been in previous novels, and actually seems to uncover the clues, instead of playing catch-up like she did in previous novels. Despite this change in personality, I'm still hoping this will be the last of her presence in Gardner's novels. The character has gone as far as she can go, and has never been the ideal linking element for Gardner's novels.

The main fault in "Love You More" was the fact that a secondary character held all the cards, with the reader knowing more than D.D. at every step. Here, that has thankfully been remedied, and I was happily in the dark for much of the novel. And unlike "Live To Tell", which just kind of sat there and went nowhere in an attempt to hide the plot twists, "Catch Me" quickly moves from one plot surprise to the next. I was drawn in by the character of Charlie, particularly her relationship with a stray dog called Tulip. Mushy perhaps, but it was endearing and made the character likeable.

A small complaint would be the inclusion of characters from all of Gardner's previous novels. They provided little to the progression of the novel, and exchanges with most of them boiled down to nothing more than conversations about rearing children. I don't mind finding out where characters are at after their stories have been told, but here it grew tiresome and repetitive. A couple of times I kept saying to myself: "Get on with it already!" Luckily, it doesn't take up too much plot space and I was back in a fast-paced, exciting thriller.

"Catch Me" is a great read, one I finished in a single sitting. It may only be February, but this one is already on the short-list for one of the best reads of the year (unless this year heralds a flood of great thrillers). Gardner has once again cemented herself as one of my must-buy authors. Highly recommended.

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