Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner
Narrator: Hillary Huber
Published by Brilliance Audio on January 19, 2021
Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Apple
Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.
A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim's wary family tells Frankie she's on her own--and she soon learns she's asking questions someone doesn't want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.
Before She Disappeared is just what I want to read. There is nothing I didn’t love. It’s in a favorite genre and has both a private investigator of sorts and police investigations. The world is well-developed with the grit of ordinary and desperate lives. The characters also feel so authentic with the nuances of their personalities and relationships drawn for the main characters, the families, the police officers, the neighborhood people, the school personnel and everyone from those at the bar to the coffee place and the transit workers, and the people who attend AA meetings.
Frankie is a recovering alcoholic with no special skills beyond tenacity and the fortitude to uproot and reinvent her life each time she finds a new case to solve. She tackles the “unimportant” missing, mostly teenagers, who are poor or minorities or both. It reminds me of the Equalizer except Frankie doesn’t have the weapons, physical training or any kind of technical or financial resources. However, Frankie has some street smarts and she just doesn’t give up. Oddly, she’s a bit of a luddite with technology.
Frankie is easy to love with her total commitment to the missing, her perseverance in the face of danger, and honesty with the families. She has her guilt and nightmares from her past, and her time of bingeing alcohol. But she doesn’t let it take over her life. She is dedicated to the search above all else.
In this case, the setting is Boston, which is a much larger city than she usually works. There are both police and community liaison officers, who are never excited about her plans. She can support herself through bartending but housing is expensive here. She doesn’t need much, though.
The missing girl is a good teen, a smart girl who planned to be a doctor. She has high grades and is well liked. She and her brother came from Haiti after a natural disaster there to live with her aunt. Their visa will be expiring soon, so she hopes to get a student visa to go to college. They are a close and caring family. But now Angelique has been missing 11 months.
Frankie discovers plenty of secrets and stirs things up from the start. She finds new leads almost every day after months of the police being stuck. They don’t like it but they respect it. Everything happens fast with plenty of startling new information and action. I love when someone fights for the underdog, the twisty and layered plot with all its details, the well-developed characters and world. Frankie takes a wild ride and I’d love to be along for another case. I hope this character turns into a series.
Hillary Huber is one of my favorite narrators so it was barely a decision to read this on audio. Her voices were appropriate for the characters, both male and female, and differentiated. Most of the story is in the point of view from the main character, Frankie, and she brings her to life for me. I listened at my usual 1.5x speed.
Listen to a clip:
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