Before She Disappeared
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More About Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner
- ISBN-13: 9781524745042
- ISBN-10: 1524745049
- Publisher: Dutton Books
- Publish Date: January 2021
- Page Count: 400
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.32 pounds
Whodunit: February 2021
Some of the biggest names in the genre knock it out of the park, and one half of an acclaimed Scandi-noir writing team goes it alone in this month's Whodunit column.
Cases don’t come much colder than the 36-year-old murder of Dorothy Swoboda, whose burned-beyond-recognition remains were found in a similarly scorched late-model Cadillac down a steep embankment off of Los Angeles’ serpentine Mulholland Drive, thus providing the title of Jonathan Kellerman’s excellent Serpentine. Now, all these years later, the case has been assigned to LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, who enlists consulting psychologist Alex Delaware as backup. Neither expects much to come of further investigation. The cops back in the day had their suspicions, but nothing panned out. Nowadays the case files are sketchy, and the best line of inquiry seems to be to interview some of the original investigating officers and witnesses and see what insights they might have had that never made it into the official case files. Only problem is, Milo finds that virtually everyone with any insight into the case has met an untimely death. There is no statute of limitations on murder, so it would appear that someone is doing his (or her) level best to stay one step ahead of this latest investigation, and in this case “level best” makes for a scorching good read.
Before She Disappeared
Lisa Gardner’s thriller Before She Disappeared introduces us to Frankie Elkin. For a time, Frankie struggled to find some purpose in her life, some reason to keep moving forward while in recovery for alcoholism. She discovered her niche as an advocate for missing persons, seeking out those who have disappeared, the unimportant, the hitherto forgotten. She does this on a volunteer basis, taking no payment, propelled along by a remarkable success rate, at least by one metric: She is very good at finding people. Unfortunately, the subjects of her searches routinely turn up quite dead. There is hope yet for her new case, however. Haitian teenager Angelique Badeau was a stellar and motivated student, intent on a career in medicine. Then, nothing. She disappeared nearly a year ago, leaving virtually no trace. As Frankie’s investigation progresses, it offers an up-close look into some of the issues that plague American society today—racism, antipathy toward immigrants and the trafficking of young women—while providing a blistering narrative and sympathetic characters (even an annoyingly endearing cat!). Before She Disappeared is billed as a standalone, but I’m thinking it would be the perfect setup for a terrific series.
It’s likely that regular readers of this column are familiar with my gushing over mystery novels from Europe’s frozen north, a subgenre known as Scandinavian noir. After the death of his longtime writing partner Börge Hellström, Swedish writer Anders Roslund returns with Knock Knock, his first solo novel and the next installment of his and Hellström’s gripping series featuring police superintendent Ewert Grens and undercover informant Piet Hoffman. Every cop has one nagging case that they were unable to solve, a case that remains within their being, waiting for some kind of closure. For Ewert, it was the murder of a family 17 years ago in which only a 5-year-old girl was spared, although she was unable to yield any usable clues to the killings. Now there has been a break-in at the same apartment, and Ewert, who is on the verge of retirement, would like nothing more than to see this case resolved before he rides off into the sunset. Meanwhile, Piet, having been outed as an informant, is being blackmailed by lethal munitions brokers, his family threatened to the point that they must go into hiding. Roslund cleverly interlaces these two disparate storylines, and readers will marvel at just how much action can take place in a period spanning only three days. Knock Knock has handily reaffirmed all my Scandi-noir gushing.
★ Blood Grove
It is a fair bet that if Walter Mosley has a book coming out during any given month, a) it will get reviewed here, and b) there’s an excellent chance it will be the best mystery of that month. Case in point: his latest, Blood Grove. Private detective Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins is nudging 50 years of age in this novel, which is set in late-1960s Los Angeles. The Vietnam War has taken its toll on the nation. Hippies are tuning in, turning on, dropping out. Racism is rampant. And in the middle of this uneasy milieu, Easy gets approached by a vet suffering from what we now call PTSD. The vet spins an incredible story: He went to the aid of a screaming woman in distress at a remote hilltop cabin, stabbed her attacker and then lapsed into unconsciousness. When he awoke, there was no woman, no stabbed man, really no indication whatsoever that any of his memories were anything more than a hallucination. Nothing is quite what it seems in this place, in this time, in this book. Lurking just beneath the surface are a heist gone bad, a gangster or three on the vengeance trail and a trio of lethal ladies. And there are all manner of ’60s cultural references, from Lucky Strike cigarettes to Edsel cars to free-love clubs—not to mention a character who bears more than a passing resemblance to real-life record producer Terry Melcher, who was briefly associated with Charles Manson. I read it all in one sitting, as I just could not stop turning the pages.