Let me start by saying that I love Lisa Gardner’s novels. Before She Disappeared, the first of Gardner’s “Frankie Elkin” series, was no exception. I really bonded with Frankie; I can’t say why because I am not a wanderer, nor an alcoholic, nor am I haunted by the ghosts of my past. But Frankie is a loner–and that I can relate to. So when the second Frankie Elkin book came out, I couldn’t wait to read it.
I was not disappointed.
As I’ve already said, Frankie is a recovering alcoholic and a loner. What sets her apart is her determination to track down missing persons that the police have long since given up searching for. Usually these missing persons are children, and she has only ever found one of them alive. But this time, Frankie decides to help in the search for a young man, twenty-two year old Tim O’Day, who disappeared on a camping-trip-bachelor-party with four of his best friends. Five years later, Tim’s father has mounted a “one last time” effort to find his son. He is accompanied by the four friends, a local guide, a Bigfoot hunter, and a search dog and her handler.
Frankie is not welcome, and that happens a lot when she picks up a case. People assume she is searching for money, or glory, bur really all she’s searching for is peace. But she manages to insert herself into the search even though she is woefully unprepared for hiking, camping or anything wilderness.
What Frankie has that the others lack is her intuition–her ability to size up people, and ask questions that others might overlook. She considers the “whys” and the “what ifs” rather than the hard physical evidence that the rest of the group focuses on. As the hunt goes on, the team discovers evidence that places Tim in the area. But how long ago? Could he still be alive?
In the meantime, things are happening that threaten to thwart the team’s mission. Food disappears, there are attacks from unseen predators, their tents are ransacked. As time goes on, each of the team reveals secrets: Tim’s disappearence did not exactly happen the way his friends reported it. And Tim’s father was repeatedly warned not to mount this last effort at finding his son.
Frankie discovers a hidden cavern, scattered with decomposing bodies. She and Tim’s father are attacked near the cave and have to run for their lives. One team member suffers a serious concussion, a second has developed a life-threatening infection from an earlier attack. Neither has the time or the strength to continue. Two team members hike back to town for the sheriff and a rescue helicopter.
While Frankie and the remaining team hunker down and try to keep their injured companions alive until help arrives, they come under direct attack. Someone definitely wants them dead.