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When You See Me


When You See Me

Perennial bestselling author Lisa Gardner has a real winner on her hands with her latest novel, WHEN YOU SEE ME. Fans of her prolific work will be thrilled to see two of her regular characters --- Sergeant Detective D.D. Warren and FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy --- teaming up on a case that easily will become the most dangerous and difficult of their careers.

The duo is sent to a small town in rural Georgia to investigate the bones that are found just off the walking trails that traverse the woods and mountains outside of Niche. The immediate suspicion is that they may belong to some young women who were the prey of the now-deceased serial killer Jacob Ness. Joining D.D. and Kimberly on this assignment is Flora Dane, who is intimately connected to Jacob, along with Keith Edgar, a self-employed techie and true-crime savant whose skills and knowledge will be quite useful.

"WHEN YOU SEE ME is as tense and unexpected as anything Lisa Gardner has ever written. Astute mystery/thriller readers will find themselves distrusting different characters, and someone may not be who he or she claims to be."

To tell this story, Gardner whips out several different and now-familiar mystery/thriller elements. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the characters directly involved in the case. She peppers the book with a series of flashback remembrances from an initially unnamed character. It is this person, a young Latino woman who I will keep nameless in the review, who recounts a horrific life where she sees her own mother brutally murdered by a bullet that also grazes her head. She is taken in by the killer and raised in fear that she could be killed just as easily as her mother was. The damage she suffered has made her deaf and mute, as well as not having the ability to write.

The wild card in this plot is Flora Dane. Flora is suffering extreme PTSD from the years she spent kidnapped and physically and psychologically abused by Jacob. As one of the few to survive meeting with him, her role is beyond value to the case, and she will be a key figure on the taskforce that Kimberly has put together. Flora had previously helped D.D. with a domestic homicide investigation. However, it is the fact that Jacob died at her own hands that makes her so valuable to D.D. and Kimberly.

The remains found at the beginning of the novel are attached to women who had gone missing as far back as 15 years prior. These will not be the only bones that are dug up, and it quickly becomes apparent that the town of Niche itself must play some role in this as there are far too many bodies of missing people to fly completely under the radar of every citizen outside of Jacob. In fact, Niche plays itself off almost as a distinct character in this tale --- giving WHEN YOU SEE ME an undercurrent of near supernatural chills that will get under readers’ skin and remain there until the final page is turned.

While it is accepted that prolific serial killers such as Jacob may be responsible for more deaths than originally anticipated, there are too many bones and hastily made graves scattered throughout the area, making the prospect of additional killers more than a strong hunch. At one point, the manager of the motel that Kimberly and her team are staying at attempts to make up a story about a problem that will require them to leave. The manager is seen right through by the taskforce and quickly backs down. However, there is a lingering thought that posits the idea that he may not have been seeking to bully them away as much as he may have been trying to plead with them to leave as he suspects they will come to a bad end in this strange town.

WHEN YOU SEE ME is as tense and unexpected as anything Lisa Gardner has ever written. Astute mystery/thriller readers will find themselves distrusting different characters, and someone may not be who he or she claims to be. It takes the overused serial killer theme in a different direction as the mere suggestion that an entire town may be involved in what's happening is too horrific to even imagine. I guess you will have to read it and find out for yourself!

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 31, 2020

When You See Me
by Lisa Gardner

  • Publication Date: July 21, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • ISBN-10: 1524745030
  • ISBN-13: 9781524745035