Before She Disappeared: Book summary and reviews of Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

Before She Disappeared

by Lisa Gardner

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner X
Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner
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  • Published Jan 2021
    400 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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Book Summary

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a propulsive thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten.

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim's wary family tells Frankie she's on her own--and she soon learns she's asking questions someone doesn't want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[O]utstanding...Frankie, who describes herself as an 'average middle-aged white woman,' is a nuanced character whose unflinching honesty and lack of self-pity allows the reader to empathize, if not completely sympathize, with her struggles...Gardner pulls no punches in this socially conscious standalone." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"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 a page-turning plot with all its ends tucked in unpredictably tight...Gardner's latest…is a sure bet both for readers drawn to gritty gumshoe fiction and for the growing legion of true crime podcast fans." - Booklist (starred review)

"An exceptional amateur sleuth thriller…a very recommendable read." - Mystery and Suspense

"To read Lisa Gardner is to put yourself in the hands of a master storyteller. In Before She Disappeared, she gives us a crackling mystery, gritty atmosphere and an unforgettable heroine. I loved the damaged, determined Frankie Elkin. You will, too." - Riley Sager, bestselling author of Home Before Dark

"Nuanced and complex, Before She Disappeared proves once more Lisa Gardner knows how to set a hook better than anyone. It's a 'just one more chapter' thriller that will have you reading into the night. I loved it." - Gregg Olsen, bestselling author of Water's Edge

This information about Before She Disappeared was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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JHSiess

Fabulous Beginning of a Compelling New Series
Bestselling author Lisa Gardner has penned the first volume in another series at the heart of which is a strong female protagonist. But Frankie Elkins, unlike Detective D.D. Warren, is not a trained professional. Rather, she's an ordinary woman with a troubled past . . . and a mission.

The fictional D.D. Warren is a Detective with the Boston Police Department, a city in which Gardner formerly resided. Frankie once "had a house, a car, a white picket fence . . . " Gardner does not explain what happened, but Frankie has no home now. Rather, she goes wherever the cases lead her and volunteers her time. She has no interest in payment or recognition, and has so far solved fourteen cases without finding a single missing person still alive. Most recently, she located the body of a twenty-two-year old woman locked in a her vehicle at the bottom of a lake. She had been missing for eighteen months. Usually, Frankie finds her next case online, frequenting chat rooms and forums where family members and friends join "crazy people like" her to discuss the investigations conducted by local authorities, and share theories and information. Frankie doesn't own a computer. Instead, she visited the library in the town where her last case concluded.

That has led her to Boston, a city she has never previously visited, in search of Angelique Lovelie Badeau, who was fifteen years old when she disappeared eleven months ago. She walked out of school on Friday afternoon, but never arrived at home. "No sightings. No leads. No breaks in the case." Her friends call her Angel, but she is LiLi to her family.

Mattapan is a Boston neighborhood with the largest Haitian population in the United States, aside from Florida. It is also a rough area populated by poor working people, replete with gang activity and violent crime. That doesn't deter Frankie who arrives determined to find a job and apartment, and commence working the case. She is particularly interested in cases involving minorities.

Frankie is an alcoholic who needs to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly in order to safeguard the sobriety she has maintained for more than nine years. She explains, in the first-person narrative Gardner employs, that she "gave up drinking and took up always being on the move instead." She grew up in a small Northern California town. Her father also drank and her mother worked two jobs in order to support the family. And a man named Paul saved her until she grew strong enough to save herself. She thinks about Paul frequently, but Gardner does not reveal the nature of their relationship or precisely what happened to him. Gardner describes Frankie as "haunted," and "living outside the norms of society — and yet in doing so, finding herself. She is not who the world expects her to be, but she is exactly who she needs to be." She is an endlessly fascinating character, in part because Gardner only offers periodic clues to what motivates her to lead the life she does.

The mystery at the core of this first volume is intricately crafted and populated by intriguing supporting characters. Gardner's story implicates societal issues including immigration, racism, and human trafficking, and is propelled forward at an unrelenting pace as she adds layers of complications, motives, and characters with reasons to keep Frankie from locating the missing girl. Frankie narrowly escapes danger more than once, as she seeks to understand how exactly LiLi went missing, given all of the ways that people's whereabouts are tracked in urban areas. A fifteen-year-old leaves clues through social media, a cellular telephone, friends, and camera feeds located throughout the neighborhood, yet LiLi vanished.

Frankie indeed takes a job in a bar that includes a small, furnished upstairs apartment. An aggressive cat named Piper is included in the deal. Stoney, the owner, is "a man who's seen it all and lived to tell the tale" and can "communicate volumes with a single eyebrow," and he seems to appreciate Frankie and her demons. Frankie's efforts are at first met with skepticism by LiLi's family and, initially, derision by Dan Lotham, the lead detective on the case. But Frankie works to ear the trust of LiLi's family and Lotham recognizes that Frankie gets results -- she has a knack for getting information from people who refuse to cooperate with the authorities -- and if the two of them work together, they might make progress. Because Frankie has no special skills or training, is not a licensed private investigator or affiliated with the local police department, she is not bound by procedures designed to ensure that the rights of subjects or witnesses are not trampled. She can and will submit requests for information in conformity with the Freedom of Information Act or ask the families of the missing to authorize the release of specific documents if law enforcement officials refuse to share information with her. She is committed and determined, and has "a gift for asking the right questions" that Lotham respects and decides to capitalize on. And their attraction is immediate and palpable, but Frankie clearly enunciates her circumstances to ensure that their expectations are manageable and realistic. "Good guys like him have a weakness for train wrecks like me. Just ask Paul," she wryly notes.

Frankie is determined that LiLi's case will be her first real success -- she will find the missing girl alive and return her to her family. But she has to stay alive herself in order to do so. With Before She Disappeared, Gardner lives up to her well-earned reputation as "the master of the psychological thriller." Frankie is a uniquely intriguing, credible character to whom readers will find themselves immediately drawn and invested in her well-being as they strive to understand her. And transfixed to see if she succeeds and, perhaps, decides to remain in Boston with a handsome detective.

Before She Disappeared is Gardner at her very best, which means it is a page-turner that leaves readers clamoring for the next installment.

Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.

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Author Information

Lisa Gardner Author Biography

Lisa Gardner, a #1 New York Times bestselling thriller novelist, began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, she has transformed her interest in police procedure and criminal minds into a streak of internationally acclaimed novels, published across 30 countries. She's also had four books become TV movies (At the Midnight Hour; The Perfect Husband; The Survivors Club; Hide) and has made personal appearances on TruTV and CNN.

Lisa's books have received awards from across the globe. Her novel, The Neighbor, won Best Hardcover Novel from the International Thriller Writers, while also receiving the Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle in France. She was also recognized ...

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