Century | 2020 (20 February) | 385p | Review copy | Buy the book
Two hikers in the hills of Georgia, USA, discover human bones. It is believed that this is one of the old stomping grounds of serial killer and rapist Jacob Ness. FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective DD Warren have been chasing the trail of Ness for a long time and now, at last, there is a chance to find the remains of missing young women and return them to their families. They are accompanied to the small, remote town of Niche by Flora Dane, the Ness victim who got away. Flora survived for 472 days with a monster, most of that time stored in a pine box, emerging only now and then to be fed or far worse. She now works as a consultant, helping DD Warren to find and release other abducted people. But now Flora is given the chance to finally save herself, to find answers, stop the nightmares and begin living in some degree of peace.
Niche is rarely troubled by the outside world and what at first seems charming and eccentric to the detectives and their team, soon becomes something very different indeed. This is a community built upon secrets and Kimberly, DD and Flora will be tested to their very limits as they discover that whatever they thought they knew about evil, it was just the beginning.
Lisa Gardner is a wonderful crime written who has written many excellent novels, including her DD Warren series, which is now eleven books long. My favourites, though, are the last four for the very good reason that they feature Flora Dane, a fantastic character. Flora isn’t just incredible for what she has endured and survived but also for what she does to cope with it and to help others who have been in similar situations. Flora is traumatised and the signs of that are everywhere but she is rebuilding her life, perhaps even finding love, and she has the most enormous courage and bravery. We’ve seen Flora grow over these books and so, for that reason, I’d suggest that you start with the first of the four books, Find Her. But you could also read When You See Me as a stand alone crime thriller, if you wish.
When You See Me tells an engrossing story set in the perfect location for it – a remote town in the mountains, with its occasional grand wooden house with verandas, its hiking trails and thick forests. Everybody knows everybody else and Kimberly, DD, Flora and the others are not only outsiders, they’re also people of interest. They are watched and scrutinised. I don’t want to give away anything about what they discover in Niche but it is sinister, disturbing and frightening. It is very hard to put this book down.
I enjoyed the way that the novel switches perspectives between Kimberly, DD and Flora. I’m heavily invested in all three of them. While Kimberly seems less prominent than the other two in this book, her role in Flora’s rescue makes her integral to the series and I was pleased to see her again here. It is DD who I love the most in When You See Me. She has such a warmth to her and this is more apparent than ever in this novel. Her relationships with others, include Flora, are so beautifully drawn, and now we watch her establish another relationship with somebody else who needs her and who she needs to help.
When You See Me is an excellent novel. It’s richly atmospheric, exciting and full of fascinating characters, some good and some not at all. Both are a joy to read. There are disturbing themes. The novel takes us to dark places. But it is an enthralling crime thriller – moody, exciting and brilliantly written, as you’d expect from this wonderful author.