Author of the Month

Name: Lisa Gardner

First Novel: The Perfect Husband

Most Recent Book: Live to Tell

'DD is a truly great character.'

Danielle often thinks about that night when her childhood ended. The sound of her father shooting her mother and then hunting down her brother as she cowered under her duvet, trying to drown out the sound. She can remember the sound her brother made as he was killed. And she can remember her father standing in the doorway of her bedroom, saying 'I'm sorry, Danielle...' before he turned the gun on himself. Haunting enough for any child, but Danielle has always wondered, why not her too? Why did her father let her go?

Years later, Danielle is working in a hospital that deals with the most violent and damaged of children. And someone there knows something about her past, and is prepared to kill to keep it quiet.

Detective DD is back on the case of a multiple murder where a family has been slaughtered, but despite the plot being very heavy going, Gardner manages to keep the personal side of the characters light and even slides a couple of humorous one liners, which brings a balance to both sides.

DD is a truly great character. A workaholic, completely committed to her job, but with many human traits that most people can identify with.

Live to Tell, as with all of Gardner's novels, is tightly woven with many threads that appear at first to be unconnected, but as the story develops it becomes more apparent how the stories are related. This plot has a completely different take to those that I have read before which gave it a novel twist, and with Gardner being author, this only improved what was already a fantastic plot.

Yet again Gardner delivers a hard packed, fast paced thriller that will leave the reader with a book that cannot be put down once the first sentence has been started. Unmissable.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
I like a genuine page-turner, when you can’t stand to put it down, gotta read just one more chapter, have to know what’s gonna happen next! That’s my favourite kind of book to read and to write.
2) Now that the crime/thriller genre represents the largest section of fiction sold in the UK and Ireland, do you think we do enough to celebrate the quality and diversity of the writing?
No, never. We can always do better. I was honoured in July to have my previous novel, The Neighbour, win Best Thriller of 2010 from the International Thriller Writers. I’m the first female to win the award, which seems odd given how many truly amazing female crime writers are out there.
3) There is a definite dark feel to most of your stories, especially Live to Tell. How do you come up with the initial ‘sparks’ for a story this gruesome?
Live to Tell was inspired by a true story—what happened to a friend of mine the night her young son suffered a psychotic break and tried to kill them. My friend and her husband are loving, well-educated, engaged parents who knew by the time their son was three that he had issues. Yet, even after years of seeing the best specialists and trying the most cutting edge therapies, their son still “snapped.” It was such a sad and compelling story. Their son truly is a great kid—funny, empathic, loving. But by the time he was five, he started hearing voices that told him to kill. How do help such a child? What do you do when you both love and fear your seven-year old son?
4) Most of your crime thrillers could be classed as ‘surburban’ thrillers, as shown in Live to Tell. Are you fascinated by the thought of what goes on behind locked doors and the dark machinations of the ‘normal’ family unit?
I am fascinated by the notion that none of us are as “normal” as we seem. Also, I shamelessly use thrillers to explore my own deepest darkest fears. As a mother and a wife, I see danger everywhere. Then, I want answers. What drives a supposedly “nice” husband to murder his wife and/or family? What do you do when your child tries to kill you with a paring knife? I want to know, so I start talking to experts, then I start creating a novel which I hope will terrify you, while also providing some answers.
5) You appear to switch from the Quincy/Rainie novels to D.D. Warren who appears in Live to Tell. Do you have more than one series strand in case you get bored with dealing with the same characters on a daily/yearly basis? Or do you feel that a particular novel is suited to one or the other of your creations?
I love both my FBI profiler series and my Boston detective series. I pick which characters I’m going to write about based upon the (fictional) crime I have devised. If it would be FBI jurisdiction, Quincy, Rainie and Kimberly return. If it’s a city case, then Detective D.D. Warren is once again denied sex and back on the job. It keeps me, and I hope readers, entertained.
6) Your novels can be quite graphic. Do you feel there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when describing such visual scenes?
I write dark books because I’m driven by dark questions, such as what is the nature of evil? Let’s face it, answering that question is not going to take you on a light-hearted romp. I think you can be shocking and violent, as long as you are moving toward answers. You are taking the reader on a journey. You want your reader to feel the pain, because then he or she will be particularly moved by the resolution.
7) Are you surprised that so many female writers are producing gritty, violent thrillers today?
Not at all. Women have always been the front line providers of care. Ask any woman who’s nursed a loved one through cancer and she’ll tell you serial killers seem tame in comparison. Women have always confronted violence; our roles are just different from men. We are looking for ways to stop the conflict, ease the pain, arrive at the other side. And I think most of the great female writers bring this to their novels, pain for the sake of gain, so to speak.
8) Was there a particular book you read that inspired you to be a writer?
I have always been inspired by the gothics such as Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Is the handsome, compelling stranger someone to love, or someone to fear? Now, I consider myself to be writing modern gothics, fear the handsome husband and the beautiful wife. Equal opportunity villainery.
9) What do you think drives a story best – plot or characters?
I hate to choose; a great book should do both, using a twisting plot to advance character development, and character development to advance the twisting plot.
10) In a dream scenario who would you like to direct and star in a film/TV adaptation of your book?
I always thought Angelina Jolie would make a great Catherine Gagnon, the femme fatale from my novel Alone. But I’m not picky—I would simply be honoured to have one of my novels produced as a feature film.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
Bourne Identity. A great novel, turned into a great movie featuring a really hot movie star. What’s not to love?
12) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?
I grew up reading all the Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason novels. Love them and still re-read them. So, I’m going with Perry Mason.