Plan to stay awake for a few nights after reading the latest installment of Lisa Gardner’s D.D. Warren series. You’ll certainly be up a night or two reading it, but you’ll be up for several more worrying about the children in your life, be they offspring, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, or what-have-you. Gardner pulls out all the stops in CATCH ME, making it arguably the best in the series to date.
"Plan to stay awake for a few nights after reading the latest installment of Lisa Gardner’s D.D. Warren series.... Gardner pulls out all the stops in CATCH ME, making it arguably the best in the series to date."
D.D. Warren is a hard-nosed, rough-edged Boston homicide detective who has just returned to work following maternity leave, and her first case back is one that hits close to home. Someone is killing child molesters and doing a fine job of it. Naturally, the police are eager to catch the perpetrator, though some would rather give him a medal than see him get arrested. D.D. is confronted by a young woman named Charlene Grant at the scene of the second homicide. Charlie wants D.D. to investigate another murder: her own, which she is sure will take place in a few days. She explains that someone has killed her two best friends on January 21st over the course of the past two years. That date is approaching yet again, and she’s convinced she’ll be next.
Charlie does not appear to be unstable; she is employed as a dispatcher for a suburban Boston police department, and, as is demonstrated at one point, is a valued employee with a cool head in an emergency. At the same time, though, evidence is slowly but inexorably mounting that demonstrates that Charlie may well be the suspect D.D. is seeking in the pedophile murder cases. Additionally, whether Charlie is murdering child molesters or otherwise, she has a secret that she can never reveal to anyone.
Meanwhile, D.D. is experiencing her own trials and tribulations with a newborn, as she and her child’s father balance law enforcement careers with the demands of parenthood and, of course, the event that she desires the least and dreads the most: a visit from her parents. Domestic travails aside, however, January 21st is just around the corner, and D.D. and her team do not know whether to treat Charlie as a suspect, a victim, or both. As the two cases slowly intersect, D.D. quickly finds that there is more than one potential victim to protect as the murderer strikes from a totally unexpected place.
CATCH ME is a terrifying book for two reasons. The first lies in the prologue, which recounts a nightmarish event in the lives of two little girls, who are rousted from their beds by their mother, who, by any standard, is not right --- not by a long shot. The second is a by-the-numbers account of how child molesters locate, stalk and eventually meet their targets, utilizing online gaming sites. As with the best of mystery and thriller novels, Gardner’s latest raises interesting questions and inspires passionate emotions. Do laws adequately protect children from exploitation? What steps can a parent take to protect their kids who are online? Are the police enough? This puzzling and confounding mystery will have you guessing practically until the end.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 10, 2012