The weather predictions were dire – snow, freezing rain, sub-zero temperatures. The perfect day to find a cozy spot and settle in with a good book. Fortunately, I had the perfect one – Lisa Gardner’s One Step Too Far, which produced goosebumps, not from what was going on outside, but because of what transpired on the page.
Frankie Elkin is a lost soul and an intriguing character first introduced in Gardner’s Before She Disappeared. The daughter of an alcoholic father and a workaholic mother, Frankie has been sober for ten years, but every day is a battle, the lure of a drink a constant presence. Not believing she’s worthy of being loved, Frankie keeps moving like a shark, rejecting the men who want to be with her, and, in one case, watching one lover die.
With so much missing in her own life, Frankie makes it her mission to hunt for those who truly are missing. She’s been successful in more than a dozen cases, but many of those ended with a dead body, rather than a living person. Still, even in those situations, families are grateful to Frankie for providing closure, learning what happened to their loved one and having a body to bury.
Some of Frankie’s cases are so cold they are frozen in place. But she is determined and rarely gives up. She’s in the middle of hunting for a young boy when she hears about Timothy O’Day who went camping in the Wyoming wilderness with his groomsmen days before his wedding. Tim has been missing for five years and each year his father, Martin, goes back to the area for another search. Tim’s four friends – Scott, Miguel, Neil, and Josh, still battling guilt over their friend’s disappearance, reluctantly accompany Martin. Frankie makes the decision to join the group. While a local guide, Nemeth, is against the idea, another member, Bob, is familiar with Frankie’s reputation from an online site they both frequent. When Josh, whose drinking has accelerated, has to drop out, Frankie inherits his gear and place on the team.
Luciana and her cadaver dog, Daisy, are important members of the team. As the two females on the team (three counting Daisy), Frankie and Luciana quickly bond. Knowing that Frankie’s job produces little income, Luciana invites her to share a motel room. Frankie has to prove herself to the others, starting with Luciana. That Daisy takes to the newcomer is the first step.
Frankie, weighing 105 pounds soaking wet, relies on her brain rather than brawn to solve her cases. Without being obvious, she also collects facts talking with other members of the group, beginning with Tim’s friends. While the prospective groom was nicknamed Saint Timothy because of his outgoing personality and giving back to others, Frankie soon discovers he had a darker side. “Tim was a good guy, a great guy,” Scott tells Frankie. “But he could also be a total jerk.” Tim’s intended bride, Latisha, once dated Neil, until Tim moved in. She’s now married to Scott. Is what happened to Tim as simple as a battle over a woman?
It soon becomes clear, however, that someone is out to sabotage the search. Food starts to disappear and Neil sustains a head wound when someone attacks him. While Daisy is eager to search, those inspections fail to turn up a body. Martin remains resolute, especially after he happens upon a lean-to and a fire pit that he’s convinced were made by Tim. But when more food is stolen and Neil’s condition worsens, Nemeth, Luciana, and Daisy leave to bring back help. Frankie and Bob continue to search and make a discovery that places the entire operation in grave danger.
While the Wyoming landscape is beautiful, with danger around every boulder, Frankie must keep alert if she wants to stay alive. One Step Too Far, even at 400 pages, is a fast read, thanks to Gardner’s quickly moving plot. And one terrific way to get through a snowstorm.
One Step Too Far