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REVIEW: TOUCH & GO BY LISA GARDNER

TOUCH & GO
Author: Lisa Gardner
Headline Fiction RRP $32.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Touch & GoThis is what I know:  Pain has a flavor

If you read my post about Accidental Cookies, which was based on a scene from this novel, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s all I got out of this book. Not so. Touch & Go was a pacy, suspenseful read that kept me hooked all the way through. Just the sort of book I like to read. Although some reviewers call her the “Queen of suspense”, Lisa Gardner is a crime novelist I haven’t delved into yet; after reading Touch & Go, I can see I’m going to have to rectify this.

A family of three is kidnapped from their wealthy Boston home. The police and FBI are involved, but private investigator Tessa Leone (a former police officer) is also on the case at the request of Denbe Constructions, the corporation owned by one of the victims. Naturally, this causes a bit of friction, not the least because Tessa left the force a few years earlier after “allegedly” shooting her husband. (Note: the backstory to this is in Love You More, which I have not read yet.)The family appears to have disappeared without a trace – there is only a strange pile of possessions left on the kitchen bench. What does this mean? Furthermore, it looks like whoever’s responsible knew how to bypass the family’s top-notch security system.

On the surface, the family – father Justin, wife Libby and 15-year-old  – appears to have a magazine-perfect lifestyle: a gorgeous home in an elite neighbourhood, a long-term marriage that’s the envy of their friends and associates, and plenty of money. Tessa knows all too well that what’s on the surface is often an illusion and she suspects that there are plenty of secrets behind the Denby’s façade. Now she has to race against the clock to untangle the Denbe’s relationships and finances to get to the bottom of the mystery. Did the kidnapper’s know the family? Is someone from Justin’s business behind it all? Everyone is a suspect and time is ticking …

This is what I know. Lisa Gardner is a great writer. She has refined the art of writing a suspense thriller with plenty of guessing games, red herrings and “where did that come from” moments. Just as the investigators were kept guessing about the motive and players behind the kidnapping, so was I. When it came to the last third of the book, I stayed up late just to finish it.

Although I would have benefited from knowing more about Tessa’s backstory, I found this worked just fine as a standalone novel. I liked her as a character and enjoyed the interaction she had with Wyatt, a sheriff also drawn into the case. What has started as a flirtation hints at a romantic relationship in a coming novel, which will be a good side story. Half of the novel is told through Tessa’s point of view, as a third-person narrative, with a few insights from characters including Wyatt.

The rest of the story is first-person narrative through Libby’s eyes. She reveals herself to be far from happy with her marriage – as it turns out, she and Justin are estranged as the result of an affair he’d had with a young woman only a few years older than his daughter. As the story progresses, she discovers, along with the reader, that her home life is even more broken than she thought, and the reader is very much a part of her thoughts and feelings at this time. She realises, for example, that she and Justin have neglected their daughter for some time as they worked on their own differences – the impact of this shocking. This method allowed me to really feel what it would have been like, held captive by three men, with no idea why. The experience brings out the worst in the family – it draws the festering poison to the surface, leaving the reader wondering – if they survive this situation, will the family survive as a unit?

A well-written thriller, Touch & Go is a great read chock-full of suspense that will appeal to fans and new fans alike. As for me, I’m putting more Lisa Gardner on my back list.

Available from good bookstores. This copy was courtesy of Hachette Australia.

Bookish treat: The cinnamon buns cooked by Libby under the watchful eyes of her captors had me wanting some of my own, so cinnamon buns it is. Or, you can always try to make Accidental Cookies like I did.

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