By the time I'd finished the first half-dozen chapters of this book - the third in the author's series featuring investigator Tessa Leoni - I was so freaked out I considered calling it quits. But under no circumstances should you interpret that to mean it's a terrible or poorly written story.
In fact, it's just the opposite. The book begins with an investigation of a spectacular crash of an SUV driven by Nicky Frank, who ignores extensive injuries to claw her way out of the wreckage. She was, she claims, desperate to find a young girl named Vero who is presumed to be her daughter and a passenger in the vehicle. After an extensive but futile search for the child, the investigators, including police Sgt. Wyatt Foster, visit Nicky at the hospital where she's recuperating. There, they learn from her husband of 22 years, Thomas, that she has suffered two other recent concussions, is in frail mental health and - most important - is not and never has been a mother. Turns out Nicky is the client of Tessa's P.I. firm, and coincidentally, Tessa is in a relationship with Wyatt; so, he calls her in to help.
Okay, so what's the freaky part? Well, in between chapters laying out the progress of the investigation are those told from Nicky's point of view; and both what she knows and what she doesn't remember is downright frightening. A few more missing bits and pieces are re-conjured up in her memory each time she gets a chance to tell her story in print, and although I was certain everything would come together in the end, there are only dribbles of clues as to the how, when, where or who.
There are even a few appearances by the author's other series character, Detective D.D. Warren, who's recuperating from a serious injury that's sidelined her career. Her friend Tessa, it seems, is trying to coerce the detective into joining her firm, and handing her an assignment while she's got some spare time on her hands not only will go a long way toward accomplishing that, but may help Tessa and Wyatt get to the bottom of their investigation as well. I'll note here that I've read most of the Warren books (the most recent, Fear Nothing, earned 5 stars from me as well).
Much as I'd like to be more explicit, there isn't much more I can reveal without spoiling things for other readers except to say that Nicky's memories get darker and more twisted as her recollections return in odd pieces that in the end come together to form a rather horrific picture.
And that, my friends, is book review-speak for Read. This. One. Now.
Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner (Dutton Adult, February 2015); 398 pp.