Lisa Gardner's latest novel has something to terrify everyone. Pick your poison: Spiders. Abducted children. Spiders. Sexual abuse. Spiders. Put it all in the frame of a smartly plotted and compellingly told tale and you have a winner, one that you won't put down from beginning to end, other than to brush the imaginary crawling things off yourself.
SAY GOODBYE heralds the return of the extended Quincy family, with the focus this time on FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy. Gardner has a winning formula with the Quincys, one that enables her to concentrate on a different member of the family in each novel while keeping the others as supporting characters. While each of them is memorable in his or her own way, it's Kimberly who is perhaps the most complex. She's not entirely likable, a bit too high-maintenance in a relationship, even under the best of circumstances.
Kimberly is several months' pregnant at the start of the book; if one perhaps was expecting her impending motherhood to scrub the hard edges off her, one would be sorely disappointed. That, however, is in many ways a good thing in SAY GOODBYE, as she is in the middle of a case involving missing prostitutes in which no one, except Kimberly, seems to care. A young prostitute who goes by the name Delilah Rose is placed under arrest and claims that she is Kimberly's informant. Kimberly does not know the woman but is drawn into the matter when Delilah claims to have knowledge about a bizarre John with a penchant for spiders who is linked to the disappearance and probable murder of a number of young women.
Though initially reluctant, Kimberly feels some empathy for Delilah, given that Delilah herself is pregnant and that Kimberly's mother and sister were both victims of a serial killer. Kimberly throws herself totally into the case, at the risk of her health and her marriage. Her husband Mac has issues of his own, having been offered a promotion that would require them to relocate, and she is beginning to feel parallels between her own career and that of her father's, whose years with the FBI wrecked his marriage.
Kimberly gradually moves closer and closer to uncovering the murderer's identity, drawn in part by some enigmatic, eerie telephone calls from a young boy who sounds as if he is phoning for help and who may be in the process of being groomed as the killer's successor. As matters race to a riveting conclusion, she finds that the assailant is targeting others besides prostitutes and that one of his targets in particular is extremely close to home.
Gardner begins SAY GOODBYE by dropping clues throughout that unify the story, and then dropping surprises --- if you call explosions surprises --- that slowly complete the tale during the second half. You will see some of them coming, but many of them you won't. There is one particular bombshell dropped in the last couple of pages (no peeking!) that says a lot about the enduring nature of evil and the acts performed in its name. There are many subtle and tangential references to arachnoids as well. I won't give you any examples here, as part of the enjoyment of the book is picking up on these as you go along.
A great many of the chapters are also prefaced with little factoids about spiders, most of which will do absolutely nothing to help you sleep without checking your bed sheets a few times per night. The most frightening monsters, however, have two legs, not eight, and thus are deserving of greater scrutiny. You won't read SAY GOODBYE without drawing your children just a bit closer to you every hour of every day.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 15, 2008