When four members of a family are slaughtered in their home and the sole family survivor, a teenage girl, apparently flees the scene and remains in hiding, you may assume this is a straightforward case involving parricide and siblicide. If you’ve read a Lisa Gardner book before then you’ll know that this will definitely not be the ultimate outcome of the murder investigation. This is the premise for the latest novel to feature Detective D. D. Warren. The family in question is the previously dysfunctional Juanita Baez, her three children, and Juanita’s recent lover Charlie Boyd. Sixteen-year-old Roxanna is the only member of the household to evade murder and, with the two family pet dogs, disappears into the Boston cityscape with no explanation or reason — other than she may be the perpetrator of the crime fleeing the scene.
D.D. Warren has her small investigation team of officers supplemented by private citizen Flora Dane, a vigilante survivor of a kidnapping that Warren previously investigated and solved for the BPD. Together they strive to piece together a family history of parental alcoholism, possible adolescent substance dependency, child sexual abuse, and an absent father who subsequently finds himself on the killer’s hit-list. The circumstantial evidence seems to lead to the foster home that Juanita’s girls were placed in while she struggled to regain a semblance of being a responsible parent. But, as always, everything is not as it first seems.
As the plot evolves D.D. Warren begins to suspect that the investigation is possibly more than a simple race to find Roxanna before the teenager kills again. Rather, the police team may be Roxanna’s only hope of salvation. They may need to locate her before she herself is gunned down by an unidentified lunatic. Will the clues lead to the true killer, and will they be deciphered in time?
The story follows the usual template for a whodunit murder mystery, and if you favour this genre then you need look no further than Lisa Gardner for an entertaining read.
Personally, I found the text exceedingly repetitive — how many times does the author need to tell, and re-tell, and re-tell again the facts of the crime — and implausible to the point of distraction. Filled with one-dimensional characters, and filler fluff that serves little purpose other than to meet a publisher’s word count requirement, I can’t understand why the D.D. Warren series of novels appears to be as popular as they are.