Perhaps you have read all of Lisa Gardner’s books; maybe you have read a few of them, skipping around a bit and sampling one of her early stand-alone works, or one or two of her D.D. Warren novels; or it’s possible that you’ve read none of her work. TOUCH & GO will give you cause to set aside any preconceived notions you might have about Gardner’s prior efforts. As good as those may have been, this is by far her best to date.
The first page or two sinks the hook. The narrator of that introduction, a married woman named Libby Denbe, is out to dinner with her husband, Justin. It sounds like a date, but certainly all is not well between the couple. There are hints dropped here and there, like breadcrumbs down a wooded path, that the problem is Justin’s infidelity, not to mention his frequent absences from home as he manages a multi-million-dollar construction company. However, the quiet tension over dinner is nothing compared to what happens when the Denbes return home and, with their 15-year-old daughter, are suddenly abducted with military precision from their home by a trio of armed mercenaries.
"Some may guess the purpose of the abduction early on, but even if so, such knowledge will not spoil the wild ride or the revelations that unfold throughout the book as it spirals to an exciting conclusion that is satisfying on several levels."
Tessa Leoni, who was introduced in Gardner’s 2011 novel LOVE YOU MORE, is now employed as a private investigator by Northledge Investigations, the firm retained by Denbe Construction to handle its security. After some jurisdictional head-butting with a Boston investigator named D. D. Warren (who is granted only a cameo appearance here), Tessa finds herself working with few if any clues. The kidnappers don’t make contact, and while the nature of the heavy construction industry provides plenty of opportunity to make enemies, there is no rival company that seems to jump out as a likely instigator for the kidnapping. The only real clue in the case is that the kidnappers were headed through Rhode Island, which is almost the same as no clue at all.
Meanwhile, over the course of the next 72 hours or so, the family finds itself unraveling. Justin may be an unfaithful husband, but all members of the Denbe family have their own potentially devastating secrets, ones that impede their ability to survive in the custody of their abductors, who are extremely dangerous, ruthless, and perhaps just a bit off the sanity grid. When a ransom demand is ultimately made, Tessa, working with a Rhode Island cop with a high level of competency and a certain degree of rough and not-unattractive charm, finds herself in a race against time to locate a family that cannot be found in order to save them from a tragic fate that seems almost certain to occur.
Gardner truly pulls out all of the stops in TOUCH & GO. Frequent changes in point of view --- from the investigation to the captives and back --- keep things rolling as the narrative shifts reveal just enough to keep the reader a step or two ahead of Tessa, but no more than that. Some may guess the purpose of the abduction early on, but even if so, such knowledge will not spoil the wild ride or the revelations that unfold throughout the book as it spirals to an exciting conclusion that is satisfying on several levels. Gardner’s large fan base will be more than thrilled with the results (the absence of D. D. Warren notwithstanding), while readers unfamiliar with the majority of her work will find themselves hunting down past volumes while waiting for her next book.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 8, 2013