Crash and Burn: A Novel. Lisa Gardner. Penguin Group USA. February 2015. 400 pp. hardback and e-book. ISBN #:9780525954569.
“Where is Vero?” repeats Nicole Frank immediately after a devastatingly brutal car crash in which her SUV landed upright with the front of the car vertically dug in the dirt at the bottom of a deep hill off a main road. Despite phenomenal injuries, she manages to crawl out of the back of the SUV and up the hill to look for her daughter and get help. She then blacks out and doesn’t wake up until she’s in the hospital. Her quiet husband, Thomas, is sitting next to her bed, looking as he’s been through a tornado. Later Nicole hears him telling the doctor that this is her third concussion in the last year and that she was very sick even before the setback of this horrific accident. For some reason, that statement makes Nicole furious!
The cause of her TBI or traumatic brain injury is never initially explained except to say she kept blacking out and falling. Meanwhile, she keeps calling for Vero, so much so that the local police set up teams, including tracking canines, to find a girl who they estimate must be between nine and thirteen years old. It’s a search that’s in the wrong place for the wrong reasons but no one realizes that until much, much later in the story. Some have doubts about Nicole who had been found reeking of very expensive whiskey, in spite of the fact that her blood alcohol level wasn’t in the criminal zone. However, she is guilty of driving when she was medically advised not to do so and so may be charged with criminal charges related to DWI.
The story begins to spin faster and faster as a team composed of Sgt. Wyatt Foster and his girlfriend/patrol woman Tessa Leoni, begin to put the broken pieces together of this strange occurrence. At first they suspect Nicole’s husband, Thomas, of perhaps abusing her but then other characters enter the picture, in the guise of supportive, loving care for Nicole. The bottom line is someone wants Nicole dead but who and why?
Crash and Burn: A Novel is a great thriller and the reader will never in a million years be able to put the pieces together before Nicole, Thomas, Wyatt and Tessa. It’s a psychological novel as well as we get to read about Nicole’s thoughts and feelings as her memories very, very slowly return, eventually one significant memory that holds the key to her obsession with “Vero.” Traumatic brain injury, indeed, has more than one meaning and a potent one at that! Crash and Burn… is a story of passionate, unconditional love that can endure the worst that can happen. That love teaches Wyatt and Tessa something deep about what really matters and how they can handle their future together. Nicole and Tom as well must learn to trust again, despite having seen something so, so terrible it could scar her forever! Grand job, Lisa Gardner – love your novels!!!!