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The Third Victim    by Lisa Gardner order for
Third Victim
by Lisa Gardner
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2001 (2001)

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Bakersville, Oregon is a small, quiet community where everybody knows one another, neighbours always help each other out, and it's still safe to leave the back door unlocked. Officer Rainie Conner and her partner are on their lunch break when they receive a frantic call from the local elementary school - shots have been fired, children are dead or dying. As she races to the scene, Rainie can't believe what she's hearing, but in short order she's confronted by the horrible reality of shocked and bleeding children. Frantic parents have also arrived, only adding to the frenzy as they search desperately for their kids.

Once Rainie moves inside the school to conduct a search, she's confronted by an even more chilling scene - a boy holding his father at gunpoint. The identity of the teenager astounds Rainie. Danny O'Grady is the Sheriff's son, a boy Rainie's known all his life. Could he really be responsible for the brutal deaths of two of his classmates and his beloved computer teacher? Rainie doesn't want to believe it, but the evidence against the boy is inescapable. When Danny admits to the killings Rainie's not sure of anything anymore.

State investigators want to write the homicides off as yet another in a growing list of murders committed by today's troubled youth. But Rainie isn't so sure. There have been murmurings of another shooter, someone witnesses have dubbed, 'a man in black'. Despite mounting pressure to drop what the more experienced investigators consider a fruitless lead, Rainie refuses to leave it alone. Once Washington-based FBI Special Agent Pierce Quincy arrives on scene, he's the first to agree with her. He's coping with a personal tragedy of his own, as his elder daughter lies in a coma she's not expected to survive.

Determined to solve a case that grows more baffling and complicated by the hour, Quincy and Rainie pool their knowledge and resources to track down a cunning and ruthless killer. When she discovers that events from her own troubled adolescence may have been the catalyst to trigger this latest middle school bloodbath, Rainie puts her life on the line to stop a human monster who preys on teenage insecurities.

Lisa Gardner's chilling debut novel, The Perfect Husband, quickly established her as a writing force to be reckoned with. In The Third Victim, Gardner takes one of today's most disturbing subjects and offers readers a well researched, edge-of-your-seat page-turner that will leave suspense fans wholly satisfied and then looking for a second helping. And Gardner has provided exactly that - check new hardcover releases for the return of Quincy and Rainie in The Next Accident.

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