Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book Review - Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner

Say Goodbye
Author: Lisa Gardner
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Bantam (July 15, 2008)

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy has more important things to worry about, many other cases to solve. Yet, something compels her to believe the young prostitute who tells her a horrific and totally un-proveable tale of a serial killer with an obsession for spiders who's targeting prostitutes, women no one cares about enough to notice their disappearance. Perhaps its her own pregnancy that causes Kimberly to take an interest in this case-which-is-not-a-case or maybe it's because her own mother and sister had died at the hands of a serial killer. Whatever the reason, Kimberly is inescapably drawn into a web of deceit and unforgettable horror, even as things come to a boil in her personal life.

Wow! It's been a while since I last read a Lisa Gardner novel. But I now remember why I used to like her so much. She has a way of getting into the minds and motivations of her characters that's so eerie as to raise goosebumps in her readers. This book, in particular, is not for those faint of heart, filled as it is with the tortured and twisted reminisces of a ruthless, remorseless and extremely devious psychopath with a sickening proclivity and a penchant for playing terrifying mind games.

Without revealing details, all I can say is this book depicts a classic case of how abuse generates more abuse which is at once horrific and fascinating. And to further add to the general creepiness is the presence of spiders. Each chapter begins with a small but crucial piece of information about various species of spiders and as the story develops, the reason behind the killer's obsession with them is revealed.

There are a multitude of characters which naturally gives Gardner a chance to spread red herrings galore and as a technique, it's very effective. But while it's easy to guess one aspect of the mystery, it's not so easy to guess at the deeper one which is central to this story. I would so love to explain this cryptic statement, but if I do then the mystery won't be a mystery and you'll all hate me for it and I will hate myself too! (but if you have read this book, then contact me and we will have a good old chat)

As I remarked earlier it's been some time since I read a Gardner novel, but it's obvious that protagonist Kimberly and other family members are repeat characters. The author cleverly drops just enough hints to make readers avid with curiosity to read the previous books without revealing much about them. As with the villain, here again the ever-shifting dynamics of interpersonal relationships will intrigue readers - Kimberly's curious relationship with her father and his new wife, her conflict with her husband, her fears of and for her child, the new man in her life etc. I'd have loved if the author had explored these aspects more, but the killer takes the center stage and rightly too.

Other things I liked about this novel were the conflicts between the Feebs and local law enforcement, the mining history of the state of Georgia and its people, seeing high-tech technology go hand in hand with good old-fashioned knocking on door to door kind of detection and other things. I particularly liked the Acknowledgment section where, among other things, Gardner explains how and why she used Spiders in this book.

This is one of my pet peeves - Leaps of deduction. Whatever you attribute it to, whether innate sixth sense or something coming from years of experience, I just don't like it. And I observed this particularly towards the end of this story. Another thing I found unbelievable was a fight sequence involving Kimberly. Granted Kimberly has been provoked enough, but I simply cannot see a pregnant woman throwing herself into a hair-pulling, rolling on the floor kind of fight without a care for her unborn child, FBI agent or not. And then there's the shooting in the clearing towards the very end. I don't think that was ever explained satisfactorily.

In Short
Like any good story, this one also has its good and bad points. But there's no denying the ability of Say Goodbye to grasp its readers and leave them wrung out emotionally at the end, which I personally consider to be a sign of a good read, even a great one.

Fast, chock-full psychological suspense and with a message that leaves the reader thinking, Say Goodbye is one book I'm glad not to have passed up and said 'good-bye' to.

To buy a copy of the book, go here.
To visit the Author's site, go here. (ps - the author has regular giveaways)
To visit the Publisher, go here.
*NEW* Interview and Giveaway with Author Jean Holloway. Ends July 21.
And don't forget the Scholastic Summer Kit Giveaway. Ends July 15.