I came to this book with very big expectations, right off the back of Gardner's superb thriller 'Alone'. The first half of the sequel to 'Alone' is excellent. Bobby Dodge, the complex central character from 'Alone' returns, this time in his brand new role as a detective. There is so much promise in the first half: a truly heinous crime with impossible and inexplicable connections to the inciting crime from 'Alone'; Bobby trying to rebuild his reputation as a police officer after his personal involvement with Catherine, the maybe-maybe not victim of 'Alone'; and Annabelle, the victim in this case, a tough young woman who has spent most of her life on the run.
As in 'Alone' Lisa Gardner really captures the reality of police life, in this case what it's like being a detective on a big task force, trying to work miracles with sheer guts and determination, the way the job can take over your whole life. There are so many fascinating lines of investigation being pursued. The first half really sells itself as a first-rate police procedural, and I could clearly envisage great forthcoming tension and twisty psychology as Bobby again navigates the tricky intersection of his personal and professional life.
However for me the second half of the book didn't deliver on the promise of the first. Unlike 'Alone', which used third person points of view from multiple characters, including the killer's, this book alternates between third-person point of view (Bobby) and first-person point of view (Annabelle). No problem - it's a common technique. However where we developed a clear understanding of where Annabelle is coming from - she spends a lot of time reflecting on her past, which slows the otherwise relentless pace - Bobby's emotional and psychological complexity seemed progressively lost. Starting with a very close third-person point of view, complete with ethical dilemmas in the first half, his point of view becomes more impersonal in the second half. The narrative focused on the action with little reflection on the ethics of his relationship with Annabelle - this begged to be addressed, having been clearly called out by DD Warren earlier in the novel. It was ripe for the masterful psychological deep-digging which Gardner showed in 'Alone'. This may be because the second half of the book was mostly in Annabelle's point of view, with relatively little time in Bobby's.
The hard work done by the police ended up doing no more than connecting the crimes from 'Alone' and 'Hide'. The connection was complex, interesting and well thought-out, but it didn't contribute to actually getting the bad guy(s). The multiple leads worked by the forensic anthropologist and the detectives are neatly wrapped up in a final chapter - not rewarding after so much procedural bait was dangled at the start. Perhaps the choice to concentrate exclusively on two characters' points of view, and to work the story over a very short timeline restricted Gardner's options.
This is still worth reading because Gardner does the best job of any author I know of really getting inside police investigations, and inside police officers' heads (I just wish she'd done it more in this novel). I will try more novels in this series but I hope that the excellence of 'Alone' - still one of the best police thrillers I have ever read - is regained.
PS Although labelled as part of the 'DD Warren' series, DD is present throughout the novel but is by no means the main character. However she is gutsy and admirable and hopefully gets to shine more in future novels.
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