Book Review – Alone by Lisa Gardner

book cover - aloneI was amazed by how well Find Her read after I discovered it was actually the eighth book in an established series. Since I tend to be a bit of a completest, I decided to go back to the beginning of that series to read the others as well. Going to the start of Lisa Gardner’s Detective D.D. Warren series, Alone, I have high hopes that the books will all end up being strong enough to stand-alone like the series’ first and latest installments.

Bobby Dodge is a Boston cop who also works as a sniper with a special tactical response unit. The first to respond when the team gets called to a domestic incident in which a husband is holding his wife and child hostage, Bobby finds himself taking the shot and killing the husband as the man raises his gun on his wife and puts his finger on the trigger. As if killing a man weren’t enough, it turns out the man was the son of a very influential judge who has it out for Bobby, accusing the officer of colluding with the dead man’s wife to kill him. Pulled into the thick of the case by the judge’s vendetta against him, Bobby learns more about the widow, Catherine Gagnon whom the judge accuses of abusing her son for attention.

One of the things I loved most about Find Her were the depths of the characters, particularly the surviving victims. There was a bit of a repetitious feel to elements of Alone—like Find Her Catherine has a past that includes having been abducted and sexually abused before eventually being found, but Catherine was much younger when it happened and the duration of her captivity before being found much shorter. The two novels are also set much further apart chronologically than my particular reading approach so I doubt the similarity is as pronounced for anyone who reads the books in the published order but it made it a little difficult to get into the story for me at first—too much of a déjà vu feeling. But even with those superficial similarities, the approaches to the two novels ended up being quite different and I gradually got pulled in just as thoroughly.

As with Find Her, the narrative in Alone is divided among several people’s perspectives. Given that this novel was the start of the D.D. Warren series, I expected there to be a bit more of her in it but after finishing the novel discovered in the additional reading at the end that it was never intended to be the start of a series about her. I do think that her character stood out from some of the other secondary characters though, and look forward to reading her perspective again in the rest of the books. I thought the perspectives that were offered in Alone complemented each other nicely. Seeing things primarily from both Bobby and Catherine’s perspectives—especially where both are trying to decide to what degree they can trust each other, each having their own heavy emotional baggage—worked well together. Including the perspective of the man who kidnapped and assaulted Catherine when she was a child was unexpected and eerie (but effective) as the book progressed. While some elements were predictable, there were enough genuinely surprising twists as it all played out that built the tension and the pace beautifully.

My favorite psychological aspect of this book—which, like Find Her handles the psychology of its characters with rare depth and skill—is exploring the aftermath of the shooting on Bobby. He is a cop who made a difficult call in the story and seeing the aftermath of that play out—especially in the wake of some of what’s been happening in the real world lately—was powerful. The guilt he carries and grapples with and how it manifests is compelling; how that then interacts with the rest of the characters and the thrust of the judge’s legal attack on Bobby doesn’t fail to take into account that guilt but works with it.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next book in the series is like as D.D. becomes a greater narrative force and character presence to the central story at hand.

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