One Step Too Far

Dutton. (Frankie Elkin, Bk. 2). Jan. 2022. 416p. ISBN 9780593185414. $27.00. SUSPENSE
Gardner’s second novel featuring Frankie Elkin (following Before She Disappeared) is beyond brilliant. This time Frankie is up against a sadistic killer and the remote, rugged Popo Agie Wilderness area in the Wyoming Shoshone National Forest. Five years after a hiker went missing there during his bachelor party/camping trip, eight people search for his remain, including his father; an SAR expert and her dog; a Bigfoot hunter; and a last-minute addition, loner and cold-case-missing-person-finder extraordinaire Frankie, who’s recovering from alcohol addiction. Soon it becomes obvious that someone is sabotaging the group’s mission. Frankie tries to piece together the frustrating puzzle pieces of the case while calculating how much danger the group is in when it’s made clear that the saboteur is out for blood. Gardner’s narrative is a mix of beautiful prose and ingenious, intense, edgy dialogue; her research is meticulous; and it’s amazing how this master storyteller turns Frankie, a broken urbanite, into a wilderness survivalist hero.
VERDICT Gardner’s latest is perfect for fans of unputdownable, gritty cat-and-mouse mysteries, compassionate underdog protagonists with self-deprecating senses of humor, ruthless killers, and “didn’t see it coming, OMG” endings.
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