Hallie Ephron started out very strongly with NEVER TELL A LIE, her fiction debut. COME AND FIND ME takes that work and cubes it in terms of readability and characterization. I say this even after guessing the "who" and the "what" behind what was happening to the main character within the first third of the book. It is the "why" that propelled me from first page to last in a single sitting, and it's a very challenging, titillating "why" indeed.
Diana Highsmith is a reformed computer hacker turned security consultant, and one of the best. However, she's damaged goods --- not broken, but badly bent. She has not left her Boston home in over a year, following the climbing accident that resulted in the loss of her husband. Partially as an outlet and partially as therapy, Diana, with her husband's hacking partner and best friend, has opened a highly successful Internet security company. It enables Diana to do what she does best without ever having to leave home. She can even meet with clients on an Internet-based platform (if you have a Wii and are a parent, think "Animal Crossing"), using an avatar to discuss such things as security breaches and hacker protection without getting out of her nightclothes or stepping foot outdoors. Diana orders everything in, and, other than for occasional visits from her irritating yet endearing sister Ashley, she remains closed off from the outside world.
Everything changes, though, when Ashley plans an evening that includes meeting her current (and somewhat obnoxious) boyfriend for drinks in order to break off their relationship and attending a flash mob event. After reporting to Diana that the meeting did not go smoothly, Ashley abruptly disappears in the middle of the flash mob. Diana is forced to do what she ordinarily would have regarded as unthinkable: venture out into the world in search of her sister. Seeking and receiving the help of an online friend, she's able to accomplish this and gather a few slender clues. Street cameras in the area of the event provide a vague explanation as to Ashley's disappearance, but actually raise more questions than they answer.
When Ashley reappears a few days later with no memory of what occurred in the interim, Diana is determined to find out some answers. She gets much more than she bargains for, turning her world upside down. Suddenly, everything she has believed is by turns dramatically, wonderfully and horribly wrong, and she will have to make choices she never imagined having to make.
While the focus of COME AND FIND ME is Diana Highsmith, there are enough interesting characters sprinkled throughout to populate a sequel (or two) if Ephron so desires. Still, the book has a definitive beginning, middle and ending with a cinematic presentation that, as with its predecessor, all but begs for a film adaptation. The star, however, is Diana, a character who, I suspect, shares her more significant strengths with her creator.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 28, 2011