... a sharply-written, tension-filled yarn full of twists readers are unlikely to see coming. The most compelling element, however, is the character of Frankie, a recovering alcoholic whose obsession with the missing is a penance of sorts for the burden of guilt and grief she carries over a past trauma that took the life of a man she loves.
... pulls no punches as [Gardner] spins an excellent tale ... a very satisfying thriller ... a novel firmly rooted in modern technology and investigative techniques as well as the minutiae of the life of the urban poor. This realism of Ms. Gardner’s served to assuage, too, any reservations I had of Frankie playing a weird, white-lady-savior role even before our heroine bluntly faces the reality of what she’s doing ... Smart, suspenseful, and socially conscious, this novel knows how to concoct a thriller out of current affairs without cheapening the subject or deriding any of the people involved. Frankie is a troubled, complicated woman determined to do the right thing while also recognizing that she doesn’t have all the answers and is in no place to dictate the affairs of others. She’s a wonderful heroine for our turbulent times. In all honesty, I’m sad that this is a standalone, as I’d love to read more of Frankie and her cases. I’ll just have to check out Ms. Gardner’s many other novels to find more heroines I’ll undoubtedly root for as much as I cheered on Frankie.
It’s hard to tag just one stand-out element here, between the multidimensional portrayal of Mattapan’s Haitian expat community, Frankie’s humanizing demons and straightforward investigative technique, and a page-turning plot with all its ends tucked in unpredictably tight. Tense and immersive, Gardner’s latest (hopefully a series starter) is a sure bet both for readers drawn to gritty gumshoe fiction and for the growing legion of true-crime podcast fans.
It’s been a while since Gardner wrote a stand-alone; this one is well worth the wait. Readers will fall in love with her protagonist ... readers will have to pay close attention to the subtle carrots Gardner dangles in front of them. It’s a wild ride through Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood; a mix of real and imagined dangerous streets where her local characters perfectly reflect the rich mix of island cultures there ... Fans of this incredible author, police procedurals, timely immigrant stories, strong determined women, and tales that are not tied up with a pretty bow at the end will not be able to get enough of this intense page-turner.
... cuts remarkable new ground ... An intense and fast-paced investigative novel ... Gardner’s fierce and skillful blending of rage and despair and unhealable wounds makes Frankie an unforgettable protagonist. She can’t be called an amateur sleuth, because her impassioned searches have shown solid results. She has families that speak for her, because she cared enough to work for discovery of what happened to their loved ones. Yet she’s not paid by any of those. And she walks a knife edge of internal haunting ... introduces what may be the most powerful sleuth of the decade, an 'ordinary' woman driven to uncover the truth at any personal cost. There’s only one thing to ask for by the time the book ends: please, please, a sequel and a series.
... outstanding ... The mystery’s solution is a neat twist on the obvious dangers that might destroy a talented girl’s dreams ... a nuanced character whose unflinching honesty and lack of self-pity allows the reader to empathize, if not completely sympathize, with her struggles. And cat lovers are sure to fall for Piper, Frankie’s equally dysfunctional feral companion. Gardner pulls no punches in this socially conscious standalone.