Crash & Burn Is Lisa Gardner's Most Complex Novel

Lisa Gardner pulls out all the stops in her latest novel, Crash & Burn. This is a novel so complex and challenging that readers will be going back to the first of the novel to read sections over and over again. There are so many muddled characters who try to make sense of all that is going on, while there are other seemingly crazed characters who are determined to hide the truth. In short you can't breeze your way through this one.

The book opens with a car crash. A woman named Nicky Frank drives her expensive SUV off a New Hampshire road. The car reeks of alcohol, and Nicky appears to be responsible for the crash. Still, she has managed to fight her way out of the crash and is hunting for someone named "Vero" when the authorities arrive. Is Vero someone who was with her in the crash, or is she just a figment of Nicky's imagination?

The primary investigator of the crash is Sgt. Wyatt Foster, the boyfriend of private investigator Tessa Leoni. As the investigation widens, Foster calls upon Tessa to help out. She in turn consults with D.D. Warren. Having these characters, who were featured in other Gardner novels, show up in this story makes it all part of one universe and also adds to the enjoyment of the book.

What is most enjoyable about this novel is its complexity. Lisa Gardner has thought out her plot from beginning to end and is atop every nook and cranny, every twist and turn. She knows when to reveal new information and when to keep it hidden. It is a bait-and-switch type of writing that holds the reader entranced and searching from beginning to end.

What is least enjoyable about this book is its complexity. The ins and outs of the story are so convoluted that they become laborious. If you lose faith in the basic premise, then you lose faith in the final outcome. For those who can keep up, this is all a grand adventure of a mystery. For those who lag behind, it becomes a tedious effort to reach the finish line.

Gardner is a talented writer. That is a certainty. But she might be just too clever with this plot line to impress all her readers. You will have to read it and see into which category you fall.

Crash & Burn is published by Dutton. It contains 400 pages and sells for $27.95.

Jackie K. Cooper