I must open this review with a disclaimer: I’ve never read anything by Lisa Gardner before. I’ve certainly heard of her, but for some reason this was the first book of hers I actually read. And I can definitely see why her books are so popular.
Before She Disappeared, a standalone novel, is the story of Frankie Elkin — a self-described middle-aged white woman with no family ties, no place she calls home, and only waitressing and bartending as her job experience. But Frankie is really good at one thing – tracking down women who’ve gone missing after the police have given up searching.
Frankie spends her time searching true crime message boards, looking for cases that have gone cold. The story of Angelique, a Haitian teenager who has disappeared from Mattapan, a low income Boston neighborhood, catches her attention. After securing a bartending job and the room above the bar, she jumps feet first into the case, with no idea what she’s getting herself into.
It doesn’t take long for the Black community to realize why Frankie is there, and not everyone is happy to have her, including the lead detective on the case. But Frankie is able to get information that the police have been able to obtain, due to her position as an outsider, and knowing the right questions to ask. Can Frankie find the missing teenager before it’s too late?
Frankie is also running from her past, as women like her usually are, and the details of that past are slowly revealed as she gets closer to the truth of what’s going on in Mattapan. Her addiction is always at the forefront of her mind, framing her decisions and how she sees the world around her.
Before She Disappeared sucked me in, and there were times I was holding my breath as Frankie dealt with some of the people connected to the missing girl. The twists and turns keep the story moving, and just when I thought I knew what was going on, something else got thrown in. The conclusion is both surprising and obvious at the same time, which is the mark of a good thriller, in my opinion.
As I mentioned Before She Disappeared may be my first book by Lisa Gardner, but it won’t be my last.