Reviewed by Angela Marie
‘Telly!’ my baby sister cried one last time. As I lifted the bat.
Had a family.
With her latest novel, RIGHT BEHIND YOU, author Lisa Gardner strips away the fairy tale that all families love and protect their children.
In young Sharlah and Telly Ray Nash’s world, A is not for Apple Pie, but for Abusive Alcoholic Abyss. How does the reader prepare for entering a world of intense and graphic family dysfunctionality? Perhaps with the optimism of hoping that just as a family can be destroyed and a child isolated, so too can a new family be birthed.
Pierce Quincy, a retired FBI profiler, and his partner, Rainie Conner, a former police officer, are enlisted to aid in solving two horrific and seemingly cold-blooded murders, unprecedented in the sleepy small town of Bakersville, Oregon. Lisa Gardner has created the fictional town, basing it on her grandparents’ home town of Tillamook. There is nothing remarkable about Bakersville with its Walmart, library, cheese factory and sleepy air. There is nothing remarkable until the EZ gas store shootings wake the town, and further shootings shake it to its core. Video surveillance shows the killer’s face and, shockingly, he is a young adolescent. He is Telly Ray Nash, the killer of his parents eight years previously and the brother of Sharlah, the traumatised observer of the deaths of her parents. Add to this that Sharlah is the foster child who is about to become the adopted daughter of Quincy and Rainie who will become her “real-life, forever-and-ever parents”.
After eight years apart, Telly has found Sharlah, and is coming to get her. As Telly asks himself, is he “Hero or Zero”? Is he hero or villain?
As a nine year old, he killed to save the lives of his sister and himself. This time his intentions are unknown, arousing strong and sickening suspicions. No longer a child backed into a corner, Telly is now a decision maker. He is a calculated shooter.
So begins the race; the race to stop the spree killings and to protect Sharlah from the killer. And to protect Sharlah from herself.
RIGHT BEHIND YOU is the eighth novel in the FBI Profiler Series, a series which introduced Quincy and Rainie to the reading public. In this novel Lisa Gardner develops successful characters by employing pared-back traits that the reader can relate to. To quote Sharlah, “We are all a little bit broken.” Consider beautiful companion dog, Luka, retired from active duty courtesy of an injured knee, who was the key to unlocking the stone that had become Sharlah’s heart. Emotions are raw, stressed, seething with frustration. Intensity is delivered in the seeking, seeking, seeking of answers. As readers we are privy to the thoughts of Telly Ray, an opportunity denied to the unrelenting pursuers of justice; the police, the profilers, the trackers, and Sharlah, and the others. Envelop the unrelenting heatwave around Bakersville and we too are drained and distracted.
Lisa Gardner weaves her tale with the skill of a Golden Orb spider, casting the silk wide and then drawing it tighter, tighter, tighter, until the hopes we have held for the proof of innocence of Telly Ray are dashed as the evidence of his guilt and unconscionable evil becomes apparently irrefutable.
New York Times best-selling and prolific author, Lisa Gardner, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with an international relations degree and sold her first book at 20. She considers herself a “research junkie” in forensics and policing methods, honing the skills she developed as a former research analyst. Lisa is a champion of the thriller genre. With generosity of spirit, she encourages the reader to connect with a diverse group of fellow crime writers, sharing her own thoughts and excitement on recommended novels. (See http://www.fantasticfiction.com/ ) She encourages her audience to journey with her. Consider her annual “Kill a Friend, Maim a Mate” Sweepstakes which delivers victims for Lisa’s novels.
RIGHT BEHIND YOU is a masterclass on how to write a truly disturbing and magnificently interlaced psychological thriller.
A word of warning, dear reader. Allow yourself the luxury of time. This novel is hard to put down.
By Lisa Gardner