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The Neighbor    by Lisa Gardner order for
by Lisa Gardner
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

When a lovely and personable schoolteacher and mother of a precocious four-year-old daughter goes missing without a trace from her quaint South Boston home, the media is quick to pounce upon what might become an explosive story. Husbands getting rid of their pesky wives when problems (or extramarital affairs) arise seems to be the popular solution lately. Detective Sergeant D. D. Warren is called in to investigate the case and soon learns that husband Jason Jones is less than forthcoming in sharing information about his missing wife Sandra. With nothing to go on but a slightly bloodstained quilt and a daughter - who D. D. is certain has been coached, or threatened, not to talk about what she saw or heard - Jason Jones quickly rises to the top of her suspect list.

As the media and police converge to prove that Jason is indeed the guilty party, he begins his own singleminded and desperate campaign to destroy evidence and protect his daughter from prying eyes and police interrogation. D. D., in the meantime, is certain the soft spoken, unshakeable and devoted father is guilty as sin. All she needs is a single damning piece of evidence to link the tight-lipped husband to what she believes is more than likely a case of domestic abuse and murder. However, when a much needed break in the case finally does arrive, it brings with it a twist D.D. never saw coming and eventually proves more shocking than D.D. and her team of investigators could ever have imagined.

While D. D. is introduced as the main character, she's really more of a frustrated observer who's shackled by police procedure as she tries unsuccessfully to extract information about or from Jason Jones himself. Her every avenue of investigation is stymied by the extremely cunning Jason or by other unbreakable roadblocks. Jason and his missing wife are the true leads in this spider web of a story. It's through their alternating points of view, some of which are flashbacks, that the reader (but never D.D.) learns exactly why both this ordinary husband and wife are so desperate to unravel or guard their myriad secrets.

Part intricate and involving psychological character study, part chilling mystery, The Neighbor is an absolutely engrossing read. It offers a serpentine plot as well as examining the horrors that might go on behind the closed doors of what seems on the surface an ordinary, loving family. The Neighbor is arguably Lisa Gardner's most meticulously crafted and unsettling puzzler yet.

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