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Review of Lisa Gardner’s LOVE YOU MORE

04/12/2011

This review appears on the Amazon web page for LOVE YOU MORE, but it’s a book that deserves attention from all readers, not just those who shop online. Visit Lisa’s own website for more information, including a list of bookstores where she signed books last month.

I just took a break from writing my new book to read the latest by Lisa Gardner, who’s one of the very few writers on my must-read list. Usually when I’m deep into a novel, I read very little in the genre. But Lisa Gardner sent me an advance copy of LOVE YOU MORE, and I pretty much dropped everything and read it through the weekend.
I’ve been a fan of Lisa’s D.D. Warren series for some time, but she’s truly outdone herself with this one. It grabs you on the first page and keeps you guessing until the final chapter, moving effortlessly between first person and third person narration, weaving an extraordinary amount of research into nonstop action.

LOVE YOU MORE starts with a crime we think we understand. Massachusetts State Trooper Tessa Leoni’s husband Brian is dead in their kitchen, and Trooper Leoni has been beaten almost to death. It looks to everyone like a case of a battered wife defending herself at last. But Leoni’s six-year-old daughter, Sophie, is missing, and the trooper’s story is full of holes — holes that become even wider and more curious as Boston Police Detective Sergeant D.D. Warren and her old lover, friend and former partner Bobby Dodge investigate.

Warren is dealing with issues of her own, as her relationship with Alex (who never appears in person in this installment) reaches a major turning point, one with implications for Warren’s investigation and beyond. (I’m not going to give away what that is. You’ll have to read it to find out for yourself.) The nature and power of Trooper Leoni’s attachment to her daughter are central to this story: just how much does Leoni love her daughter, and to what lengths will she go to protect her? Is it possible that a mother so devoted could kill her own child?

As Warren and Dodge follow the trail of clues, they uncover secrets at every turn: a terrible crime in Leoni’s adolescence, a shameful secret of her husband’s, and unimaginable betrayal among comrades and friends. Stakes escalate to a climax that is shocking, sad and deeply satisfying.

LOVE YOU MORE stands out in the crowded field of thrillers not only because it’s a terrific book, but because it features two compelling and believable female protagonists. Trooper Leoni tells us her own story in the first person, alternating with the third-person narrative of Warren’s investigation. Leoni’s motives emerge over the course of the book, but her passion and conviction draw us in even before we know whether she’s guilty or innocent. We cannot argue with her absolute drive, even as we root for Warren and Dodge to make sure justice is done. It’s a remarkable juggling act that requires rare talent, and readers will be anxious for the next installment in D.D. Warren’s adventures.

I’ve noticed that a lot of guys have some kind of prejudice against thrillers written by women. Take my word for it: Lisa Gardner has the suspense chops to compete with Harlan Coben, Lee Child, and Michael Connelly. Anyone who’s already read Tess Gerritsen, Karin Slaughter, Sandra Brown, or Mary Higgins Clark knows that some of the most gripping thrillers around are written by women.

If you haven’t yet discovered Lisa Gardner, now’s the perfect time to start. LOVE YOU MORE is going to win her a legion of new fans and launch her right to the top of the lists along with Nora Roberts and Tami Hoag — and Stieg Larsson.