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Lisa Gardner - Crash & BurnAuthor: Lisa Gardner

Title: Crash & Burn

Publisher: Headline

Paperback: 384 pages

ISBN: 978-1472220264

Price: £7.99

Publication Date: 16/07/2015


My initial reaction on receiving Lisa Gardner’s latest novel, Crash & Burn, was that it sounded like fairly familiar psychological thriller / woman-in-peril territory. A woman, Nicky Frank, is in a car crash. When the police find her she is apparently drunk and claiming that a child, Vero, is missing. But her husband is adamant that they have no child. And Nicky has suffered a number of concussions over the past months – leading the investigating detectives, Detective Wyatt Foster and Kevin Santos, to focus their gaze on the husband.

But whilst the novel initially seems to be taking the reader down an expected route – wondering whether Vero exists or whether she is just a figment of Nicky’s imagination – it begins to twist and turn those preconceived ideas and expectations in a manner that left me first pleasantly surprised and then completely engrossed.

Because, very soon, the twists and reveals are coming thick and fast – and the novel took me in a direction that I didn’t really see coming until a fair distance into the book (something that doesn’t happen very often!). Much of what the reader learns comes from Nicky’s POV, leaving us with a fair bit of wariness as to what to believe, as she is an incredibly unreliable narrator.

What I especially liked about Crash & Burn was the manner in which it is constructed. Nicky’s POV underpins the novel, and is the major focus. However, Gardner also weaves in the police investigation, which serves as a counterpoint to the pyschological elements of Nicky’s narration. And it is here that Gardner’s skills as a crime writer are apparent, as these procedural elements feel both engaging and very well drawn.

Essentially this novel is a standalone book. However, what Gardner does very well is to utilise two characters who will be known to her frequent readers. D.D. Warren – star of her very own series – makes a cameo appearance. And Tessa Leoni, who has appeared previously across Gardner’s work, is both an important figure in the development of the plot and Wyatt Foster’s girlfriend. However, knowledge of these characters is not essential to an enjoyment – or even an understanding – of this book.

That being said, my biggest criticism of the novel is that on the occasions when either Warren or Leoni are talking about their involvement in previous books (or cases) they tend to give both overly detailed and quite unlikely levels of exposition. It just comes off as a little clunky, but doesn’t really happen enough to be more than occasionally annoying.

Ultimately though, I found the treatment of traumatic brain injuries – and the interplay between ‘memory’ and reality in Nicky’s mind – to be incredibly well handled. Whilst there are some moments that are a little heavy on dialogue and the ending is somewhat convoluted, I found this to be a welcome change from the usual procedural or psychological novel. And I ended up devouring the whole book in one sitting (although, admittedly, it isn’t the biggest book in existence!).
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