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Insightful, if grisly, page-turner

  • Jul 27, 2010
Good-looking and single, Boston police detective D.D. Warren has big appetites and no life. Basically, she's married to the job, but while her newest case interrupts the first date she's had in eons, it also opens a pathway to possible romance. Or at least sex and good food.

The case itself, however, could hardly be more gruesome. An entire family, including small children, murdered, apparently by the father who finished things off by shooting himself in the head, though he survived to be rushed to the hospital where he lies in a coma while D.D. gathers evidence with a handsome new temporary member of her team, Alex Wilson, an academic cop honing his field skills.

Gardner's fourth in the series, this grim and grisly story races along in several voices. Juvenile psychiatric nurse Danielle's narration grows more desperate as she nears the 25th anniversary of her own family's hideous murder and Victoria, mother of scary wild child Evan moves closer to her wit's end - unless 8-year-old Evan gets her first.

When a second family is horrifically murdered, D.D. begins looking for links as she delves into the characters, hopes and dreams of the victims. Much of the narrative takes place on the locked psych ward for severely disturbed children where Danielle works. Psychotic, abused and permanently damaged children dominate the story.

Gardner's sympathetic character development illuminates this wrenching and difficult subject. Dangerous, angry, even murderous children, tug at our heartstrings in their human complexity and, often, hopelessness.

While not an easy read, this page-turner comes with a lot of insight and the plot twists and turns as it builds to a satisfying crescendo. D.D. is as fresh and witty and ornery as ever and fans will root for the romance - just about the only points of light in a dark tale.

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Lynn Harnett ()
Ranked #182
I love to read, always have, and have been writing reviews for more years than I care to say. Early on, i realized there are more books than there is time to read, so I read only books I like and mostly … more
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Starred Review. At the heart of Gardner's outstanding fourth novel featuring Boston PD detective Warren (after The Neighbor) are some very sick kids, notably Lucy, a nine-year-old feral girl who self-mutilates when any attention is given to her, and Evan, an eight-year-old boy who during fits threatens to kill his mother. D.D gets involved after two grisly family annihilations lead to the locked-down pediatric psych ward in Cambridge that specializes in Lucy's and Evan's types of hard case. When a child is too sick and the parent can no longer handle care, the child ends up in the acute care facility under the tutelage of pediatric psych nurse Danielle, the lone survivor of her own family bloodbath. Coincidence? That's for D.D. to figure out--in the midst of a budding romance with police academy professor Alex Wilson and infuriating encounters with Andrew Lightfoot, resident "woo-woo expert" (that's cop talk for psychic), who works in tandem with the hospital. Plenty of red herrings keep readers guessing, but Gardner always plays fair in this tight and consistently engaging page-turner.
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