Find Her | Lisa Gardner | 2016 | Headline | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book
Seven years ago Flora Dane was seized while enjoying her Spring Break in Florida. So began 472 days of torment and endurance, 472 days that would change and redefine this young woman to such an extent that her family could barely recognise the Flora they adored. During the last five years since her escape, Flora has become a survivor, ready to confront any danger she should meet, strong and fierce, resourceful and ingenious with everyday objects which, in her hands, can be lethal. This is just as well because Flora has found a cause – Flora is obsessed with other young women who never made it home. Her bedroom wall is covered with their images. She knows better than anyone the predators that they face, the terror and agony that they suffer, and she is going to end it.
Find Her is an astonishingly powerful depiction of Flora Dane’s endurance, not just during her 472 days of captivity but also during the years that followed it, culminating in the present day when yet again Flora is going to find herself facing the very depths, determined to save the innocent before they become as she is. The novel moves between the past and present, presenting Flora’s past experiences in her own words. And it is a harrowing tale. We are not spared and the descriptions of her experiences within the pine coffin in which she was ‘stored’ day in, day out are currently haunting my nights. This is an extraordinary portrait of survival against, and no exaggeration, all the odds. The relationship of Flora to her captor is brilliantly done. There’s nothing straightforward here. I’m no psychologist but Lisa Gardner writes with what feels like great insight.
Two other narratives form the novel – in one we have Flora in the present day, the new Flora, the one created by her earlier experiences but still in the process of being changed by it. In the other is the story of D.D. Warren, the Boston detective in charge of the present day missing girl cases. D.D. is a fascinating character in her own right, dealing with some issues from a previous case but completely committed to finding these lost girls. I really liked D.D. and the sections of the novel we spend with her do provide those brief moments of escapism from Flora’s existence and the world of one of the most realistically horrendous and evil characters I can remember reading about.
Find Her is one of the most tense and disturbing novels I’ve read in quite a while. It’s not an easy read – the subject matter and the skill with which it’s handled by the author ensure it’s harrowing. But it is most certainly compelling. This is one of those books you might just want to stay up for the night to read. Lisa Gardner must be congratulated for her portrait of Flora Dane – she makes us care deeply for this young girl changed for ever by the events that unfold through this remarkable novel.
I’ve not read Lisa Gardner before. I’m correcting that straight away. Crash and Burn is going to the top of my TBR mountain.