What could be more suspenseful than a missing (and of course young and beautiful) woman who has left a young child behind with a man she suspects has a hidden criminal life? As it turns out just about anything is more suspenseful when written by Ms. Gardner. The Neighbor is a great example.
There are glimmers of possibility as the characters get developed: the reader learns that there is more to the beautiful and vulnerable protagonist Sandra than she is showing the rest of the world and the author drops titillating hints at various sordid explanations for what her husband is spending his nights doing on the family computer while his wife and daughter sleep nearby.
Unfortunately none of that can make up for the dreary reality of the book as the author tries desperately to hook the reader with long tedious descriptions of the lovely protagonist surfing the internet and plying an unsuspecting high school student for tips on checking her husband’s browsing history. There is just no way to make opening an “internet browser” exciting, even when you add the thrill of software installation and a lesson on downloading music from ITunes. I will confess that there was a couple of scenes that had me holding my breath worrying that the stony and mysterious husband would return before our heroine could finish the laborious steps required to visit a single site.
The best part of this book is the introduction of Sandra’s neighbor, a registered sex offender who is trying to stay inconspicuous but gets drawn into the investigation by the police and has his past exposed to his coworkers with disastrous results. The image Ms. Gardner creates of this character is compelling and engaging: she writes about him with empathy for both he and his young teenaged victim. The interplay between he and Detective D.D. Warren adds real humanity to this book and I wished it were a bigger part of the plot.
Finally near the end of the book the author finds her rhythm and offers the reader a tense scene worthy of a o CSI:NY episode complete with a nighttime intruder, the real story behind this couple’s odd behavior and the satisfaction of seeing the villain truly get what he deserves. But be prepared: this ending is served with a heaping teaspoon of implausibility.