In Lisa Gardner’s third thriller featuring feisty Boston police detective D.D. Warren (after 2005’s Alone and 2007’s Hide), The Neighbor focuses on an attractive young wife and mother who inexplicably disappears from her suburban home. Sandra Jones was a sixth-grade social studies teacher at a local middle school, a well-liked employee, the doting mother to a precocious four-year-old daughter, and a seemingly devoted wife to her handsome husband, a reporter at the Boston Daily. So why would she abandon her daughter in the middle of the night and leave without taking any money, identification or clothing?

When Warren is called in to investigate the bizarre disappearance, she finds the husband—who should be overwrought—eerily detached and uncooperative. “His eyes were empty, like staring into pools of starless night,” she notes. To complicate matters, Warren soon has several persons of interest: Aidan Brewster, an oversexed neighbor who happens to be a convicted sex offender; Ethan Hastings, an eighth-grade computer nerd who was helping Mrs. Jones with a teaching module about the Internet and apparently has a crush on her; and Wayne Reynolds, Ethan’s uncle and a certified forensic computer examiner who may or may not be romantically linked to the comely teacher.

Both Sandra Jones and her husband have histories that are shadowy at best. As Warren methodically unearths more and more information about the enigmatic couple’s past, she begins to realize that outward appearances can be deceiving—and that unspeakable evil can lurk inside anyone.

Powered by a cast of realistically portrayed—and deeply flawed—characters as well as a virtual closet full of nightmarish plot twists, Gardner’s latest is a pulse-pounding page-turner of the highest order. Fans of emotionally super-charged thrillers should be forewarned, however, to make sure all the doors are securely locked before reading. Or better yet, bring this one to the beach—and start reading well before sunset.  

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