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A Review of Lisa Gardner's "Catch Me"
Another spooky hit from Lisa Gardner in "Catch Me."
Lisa Gardner retains her title as Queen of the Mystery Genre with "Catch Me."
I have my grandma to thank for my rabid appreciation of mystery novels, "true crime" works, and anything else that can fit into the category. Without fail, my grandma stops by the house at least once a month to drop off a bag of mystery goodies that she's just completed. It really is a special bond my grandma and I can share together in our love of reading mystery books. I know a lot of 20-somethings who don't know what to talk about or how to interact with grandparents. These books connect us in a meaningful way.
I read Catch Me, which came out in paperback in January (my grandma and I go for paperbacks if we are purchasing books--definitely a penny-saver! Otherwise check out your local library). For those late to the party, Catch Me is part of the Detective D.D. Warren series. Detective Warren has gone through seismic shifts in the last few titles bearing her name--in this installment, we meet her baby Jack and find out if a woman really can have it all, as the balance of work and home weighs heavily on our detective. (as I read, I noted how Gardner expertly delved into D.D.'s mind and depicts a character that doesn't have all the answers but will do her best, warts and all.) Boston, again, is our setting, but we also travel to upstate New York and Colorado. Familiar faces are there, too--D.D.'s squad mates Neil and Phil; Alex, D.D.'s boyfriend; and even D.D.'s parents, snowbirds from Florida make an appearance. We also meet a promising young cop, Tom; a precocious young boy eager to make friends named Jesse; and a fresh-out-the-kitchen, determined sex crimes detective, Ellen O. D.D. sees herself in Ellen, as dedication and no-holds-barred demeanor reflect the D.D. readers have gotten to know.
Catch Me has a creepy plot to relate, with bodies piling up and the question of connections among the murders being forefront in Boston PD’s work. Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant is a Communications Center dispatcher in a Boston suburb, and that’s all she wants you to know about her. Charlene, or Charlie as she’s referred to throughout, is in hiding. Her two childhood friends were both murdered on January 21, one year apart from each other. There seems to be no major correlation to the murders, aside from the too coincidental fact that Charlie knows both victims. As Charlie racks her brain searching for answers, she refuses to wait idly for January 21 to roll around again. A strict regimen of boxing, gun range activities, and other training compels Charlie to fight if fighting is what will protect her from as similar demise as her friends. As I read, I was glad to see depictions of a woman who can stand on her own feet and face down any demons with a clear understanding of the stark realities she deals with. Charlie has a troubled past to contend with, however, and if she is going to make it to January 22nd then she will have to learn how to accept the things weighing heavily on her heart and maybe, just maybe, stop running and let others in. The internal struggles Charlie has makes the story much more engaging. I saw the dichotomy of it; what she must do to preserve her sense of safety and what people need to do to open up (the whole "no man is an island" idea needs to become Charlie's mantra!). Reaching out to D.D. certainly seems like a good idea, but will she do so? And will anyone even take her pleas seriously? When a third murder victim comes up, the Boston PD thinks they may have a serial killer on their hands (apparently the third time is a lucky charm?!). Concomitant with this storyline is a disturbing look into the pedophile ring of Boston. Sex crimes detective Ellen O. has a full caseload trying to figure out who will be targeted next as she scours the web to find shocking “grooming” patterns—pedophiles sharing their tips of the trade to young up-and-coming pedophiles. Perhaps some good karma comes to the area as a string of murders of these pedophiles takes place. We are only left with more questions—is there a former victim targeting known pedophiles? How does he/she know to turn up at the last second to save an innocent child from the harmful pedophile? D.D. and Ellen O. are determined to figure it out, and you will be too!
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The Best Part, and what Made Me Wishing for More!
No matter that I have not traveled to Boston, Lisa Gardner paints the picture beautifully for me. While we have seen historical/cosmopolitan/suburban Boston previously, gritty, dreary Boston is presented in Catch Me. The following quote captures the setting in a glaring testimony:
“D.D. hated tenement houses. If you could take despair, give it four walls, leaking ceilings, and very few windows, this is what it would look like. She hated the punk-ass teenagers that eyed her boldly as she approached, already so grim they might as well piss off a Boston cop, because what else did they have to lose? She fretted over the shrunken, eighty-year-old grandmothers, forced to carry heavy bags of groceries up three flights of stairs to a bone-cold efficiency unit in the winter, or a 120-degree boiling kettle in the summer. …Race relations in Boston. Inner-city socioeconomics. Label it whatever you wanted; tenement buildings stood as a constant reminder to D.D. of all the ways her job was still failing a significant portion of Boston’s population” (21-22).
This is the kind of prose you get with Gardner and it makes me read again and again. She is a top-notch writer, a force to be reckoned with.
With that being said, Catch Me will not rank as my favorite book in the D.D. Warren series. It didn't have a lot of the “Gotcha!” moments I've come to enjoy so much from Gardner’s other books. I was actually able to sleep when I set the book down for the night rather than listening for noises and things that go bump in the night. Obviously, that’s not a marker of a good mystery book, though! No, the biggest problem I had with the novel was that solutions were revealed too soon and the climax was…well, anticlimactic. I would say the last ¼ of the book was spent tracking down the leads, calls and messages spread among Boston PD, and the final showdown among Charlie and whatever monsters awaited her. Perhaps its selfish on my part, but I wanted more time to see Charlie develop as well as to have conclusions for a few of the other characters, and more witty banter between D.D. and her squad. Those hopes didn't come to fruition for me.