Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
For Boston homicide detective D.D Warren, the scene is all too typical: young abused wife, finally pushed too far, shoots and kills her abusive husband. That the young wife is a state trooper will make the press rabid for details, but it's nothing D.D can't handle. But the little suburban home yields not only a dead body - there is also a little girl's bed and a little girl's toys, but no little girl. Where's the child?
This was the first time I'd read a thriller from Lisa Gardner, who is one of a cadre of female US crime writers who’ve successfully jumped from penning romantic suspense to writing bestselling darker thrillers (others include the likes of Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag, and Tess Gerritsen). I'd heard some good things.
In LOVE YOU MORE, Boston homicide detective DD Warren finds herself called to the scene of a domestic incident. The husband is dead, the bruised wife claims he abused her and she shot him in self-defence. But this is a little different: the wife is state trooper Tessa Leoni, who is trained to handle herself, but she chose not to use less-lethal options; and the couple’s six-year-old daughter is missing. As the search for little Sophie continues and the state police close ranks around Leoni, Warren gets the feeling that the missing girl isn’t the only thing that’s wrong with the whole situation. There is too much that doesn't add up...
Gardner creates a pacy and intriguing plotline, switching between the perspectives of Warren and Leoni - each trying to work out what is going on. Warren, who has appeared in four previous Gardner tales, struggles with the case on multiple fronts, having to partner with a former lover as she tries to bust down the blue wall of silence as Leoni's colleagues close ranks around her. Is she really an abused wife? Was she left with no choice but to shoot her husband? Or has she harmed her daughter and is now using all her skills and knowledge as a state trooper to cover her tracks?
While LOVE YOU MORE is the fifth book to feature DD Warren, it is the first outing for Leoni, who is quite an intriguing character on several levels, if one that is hard to get a read on. In fact, I had a little trouble connecting with her and her plight - the plot whizzed along with plenty of tension, twists, and turns, but I often felt like an interested but detached observer, rather than being fully sucked into things emotionally alongside the twin protagonists. However, I was compelled to turn the pages, and the story flowed along really well, hurtling towards a conclusion.
For me my first read of Lisa Gardner fell into the 'solid not spectacular' category; a book I enjoyed and has me intrigued enough to want to read more of Gardner's work in future, without blowing me away or having me rush out to immediately read her backlist. Interestingly, despite some reservations about the character of Tessa Leoni, I was also left with a sense that there is much more to her story too, and perhaps room for her to become an ongoing character like DD Warren herself.
Overall, a good tale that’s well worth a read for thriller fans.
This is an expanded version of my review of LOVE YOU MORE published in Good Reading magazine.