With each new novel Lisa Gardner performs the seemingly impossible task of surpassing her prior efforts. Her bibliography is a mix of stand-alone work and an intermittently published set of books that, for purposes of discussion, we'll call the Quincy series. THE THIRD VICTIM, THE NEXT ACCIDENT and THE KILLING HOUR introduced former FBI profiler Pierce Quincy; his wife, ex-police officer Rainie Conner; and his daughter, rookie FBI agent Kimberly Quincy. GONE, the latest Quincy novel, brings a new dimension to her work with Conner herself becoming the victim of a heinous crime.
Gardner does not shy away from the rough edges of relationships in her novels. GONE finds Conner struggling with a lapse into alcoholism, which contributes in part to her estrangement from Quincy and indirectly to her abduction by a mysterious and deadly stranger. Still reeling from his separation from Conner, Quincy interjects himself into the investigation and is at immediate and occasionally sharp loggerheads with Sergeant Kincaid, an Oregon State patrolman who (though otherwise competent) is totally outclassed by the circumstances of Conner's kidnapping.
Quincy brings his daughter Kimberly into the mix for assistance; following a ransom demand, however, things go about as badly as they can. It is when the abductor takes another victim --- a child with a history of violent and bizarrely inappropriate behavior --- and ups his demands that things really kick into high gear. Conner and her mysterious abductor find themselves locked in a subtle and deadly struggle, both physically and psychologically, that neither of them may survive.
Gardner is an unquestioned master of suspense, and her talents are on full display in GONE. Cutting back and forth among the principals --- the quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) frantic Quincy, the deliberately competent Kimberly, and the increasingly desperate and endangered Conner --- Gardner drops a clue here and a suggestion there, saying little but telling more and more. As is her wont in prior novels, Gardner somehow manages to incorporate enough plot twists and suspense for three novels. She does this without rushing the story or jamming plot points into the narrative simply for their own sake; everything is deliberate, everything fits, everything comes in its own time.
Initially this book requires just a drop or two of patience; something about the pacing seemed just a tad off in the beginning. But by the time you are one-third of the way through GONE (if not before), you will find it impossible to put it down. This is an unforgettable tale with a tantalizing mystery and believable characters who are all the more attractive for their flaws. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 26, 2006