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Sunday, January 30th 2011

4:01 PM

Live to Tell, by Lisa Gardner

Live to Tell

by Lisa Gardner

If you're a Lisa Gardner fan, and I know there are many of you out there, then you're probably familiar with her Detective D.D. Warren series.  Live toTell is the fourth book in that series, and my first Gardner book.  She's now officially on my radar.  I like that she's an author who does her research thoroughly and then sprinkles her newfound expertise liberally throughout the story as a means of validating the premise.  This allowed the story to flow seamlessly and realistically.  I found myself admiring her attention to detail, and wondering just how long it took her to acquire such a vast amount of knowledge and then figure out how best to incorporate it.  I did not, however, wonder why she is a New York Times best selling author; that was obvious. 

Live to Tell is a harrowing tale of mentally and emotionally disturbed children.  Some have been abused, and there is no question as to why they've developed the way they have.  While others come from loving families, with no apparent reason for their mental illness.  The main story revolves around a pediatric psyche ward in Boston, where the workers are underpaid, overworked and very dedicated to the children. There is a parallel story that takes place, also in Boston, involving Victoria Oliver, a fiercely protective mother, who refuses to institutionalize her mentally ill seven-year-old son, Evan, even as he becomes increasingly violent and darkly dangerous.

Detective Warren has her work cut out for her as she and her capable colleagues sift through the rubble of two family massacres, seemingly identical in nature, and try to connect the dots.  When several paths lead to the pediatric psyche center, all eyes inevitably come to rest on Danielle Burton, a nurse at the center who survived her own family massacre twenty years ago.  Danielle is excellent at what she does, but she has a dark history of her own, and it may be catching up with her.  What exactly did happen twenty years ago?  Danielle was there, but does she really remember it?  She was, after all, hiding under the covers when it all went down....or was she? 

Detective Warren has her suspicions, but is equally suspicious of another nurse on the ward.  Gym teacher Greg, as D.D. likes to refer to him (a nod to his physical stature), is a shady character at best.  While he, too, is quite good with the kids, there's something about him that doesn't quite ring true.  Plus, the fact that he's enamored with Danielle, not to mention highly protective of anyone getting too close to her, clearly makes him a person of interest in the case.

There is another connection between the murdered families and the patients on the psyche ward and that is Andrew Lightfoot, an investment banker turned psychic healer, who works with the children to bring them out of the darkness of their souls and into the light.  D.D. is, to say the least, skeptical of Andrew and his "powers."  She knows he's a liar, but is there more to his lies than just insurance fraud?  She also knows he's a bit of a whack job, and her scenes with him are sarcastically humorous, adding a much needed bit of levity.

While Live to Tell is a disturbing book, it is satisfying as well.  Even when you think this one's a wrap, there will be more surprises to come.  So, read on, but be prepared for a sleepness night, as there is much to digest long after Detective D.D. Warren has closed the book on this one.

Bonnie Crisalli


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