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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Four Days to Die

Say you knew with absolute certainty the day--down to the hour--of your death... how would you spend those last months, weeks, days, and hours? 
Maybe you'd hole up alone somewhere, helpless against the inevitable. Perhaps you’d go all hedonistic, trying to cram in every fabulous experience possible before time ran out. Or, you might opt to spend all your waking hours preparing yourself physically and mentally to "rage, rage against the dying of the light".... on the off-chance that you could somehow change the outcome. 
Door number three is the choice one woman picks in Lisa Gardner’s positively chilling new thriller, Catch Me.
After dealing with an abusive mother for her first several years--during which time the woman did things so awful to her that she's blocked all memories of them from her mind--it's safe to say that twenty-eight-year-old Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant's life has been anything but a bed of roses. Fortunately, she was taken in by an aunt who provided a safe and stable home, and for the first time Charlie was able to have friends.

Randi, Jackie, and Charlie were inseparable throughout school, to the point that most people in their small New England town referred to them as a single entity, RandiJackieCharlie. Although they drifted apart afterwards--what with college, relationships, and jobs--they continued to feel the bond, wherever they were.
Until two years ago on the evening of January 21, that is, when Randi was shockingly murdered. An investigation produced no results, and life for Jackie and Charlie--sadder, emptier--went on.
Then the unthinkable happened, exactly one year later, and Jackie was murdered in identical fashion. Another investigation followed, again with no answers, leaving Charlie the sole surviving member of RandiJackieCharlie.
Now, January 21 is just four days away, and Charlie is through being a victim.
The last 361 days have been spent planning and preparing. She moved to Boston to gain anonymity. The local gym has become her second home, the place where she toughens up with intense boxing training and practices self-defense moves, as has the firing range, where she's become proficient with a handgun. She's wary of everyone and everything, a haunted shadow of her former self.. but she's still alive, and determined to stay that way. 
Just in case things don't go the way she's planned, though, Charlie writes out a detailed account of everything to date--from the first murder to her own, prospective one--and hand-delivers it to one of Boston's finest, Detective D.D. Warren (chosen after much online research as the person most likely to care about finding out what happened to Charlie, in the event of her demise). 
D.D. is a good choice for the job. She's seen almost everything during her years on the force, plus she still cares about trying to make things right in the world. Not even D.D., though, has encountered anyone quite like Charlie, or anything like her predicament, before.
Nor can the already-overworked detective--who has a newborn at home--devote all her time and energy to Charlie's situation; among her cases is an ongoing and troubling one requiring urgent attention. Someone has decided to target Boston's pedophile population, and is systematically killing them off... quietly, neatly, and without a trace (other than a cryptic note left at each scene). While no one is likely to shed many tears over the victims, the fact remains that murder is murder, and she can't very well let a vigilante run loose. 
As D.D.'s team delves more deeply into the particulars of the pedophile murders--and as she struggles meanwhile to uncover Charlie's secrets, in an effort to pinpoint why the young women are being killed--something rattles D.D. to her core. The pedophile killer’s M.O. seems to fit with everything she’s learned and observed about Charlie... making her wonder if Charlie--formerly an abused child, herself--has decided to take matters into her own hands and right a few wrongs on her way out.
There are less than four days left for the team to catch a killer... or a pair of them.
There are many superb thriller writers out there, and Lisa Gardner, with her D.D. Warren series, has earned herself a spot on my list of must-reads. She brings an immensely-powerful quality to her storytelling--an indefinable something that never fails to hit me on a gut level... not for lurid, gory scenes, but for a raw, emotional intensity that I can feel. (Put it this way: she’s one of the few authors that always leaves me incapable of reading anything else for a few days afterward; such is my need to absorb/recover from her stories.)
Catch Me is no different. Charlie’s present situation, when viewed alongside her early years, is striking. Here is a young woman who’s been to hell and back... a journey which can’t help but leave scars. The complexities of how she’s dealt with the damage--and how deeply the changes which followed as a result now lie--are both fascinating and harrowing. Yes, she tells her story (to us, and to the detectives) compellingly... but how much can we trust, or believe, her? What portion of her tale is reality, and what part subterfuge? Is evil something which can be overcome... or, once touched by it, is it forever imprinted on one’s psyche, waiting to come out and be visited upon others? We can’t be sure. 
There’s a nice contrast, as well, with the recent changes in D.D.’s life, from driven working woman to new mom struggling to juggle demands she never thought she’d be facing. That she’s able to separate the truth from the misdirection in these co-mingled cases is a real triumph.
I sort of hate to say it, for fear of jinxing things, but this just might be my favorite Lisa Gardner tale yet... and that’s no small feat.

   
GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating:  Potent Mousie (Don’t Miss ;))

NOTE: Catch Me will be released on Feb. 7, 2012.