In the latest thriller of the Detective D.D. Warren series, Never Tell (Dutton), best-selling author Lisa Gardner peels back layer after layer of secrets to reveal a clever, determined murderer.

Evie Carter, a pregnant high school math teacher, finds her husband shot dead in his home office. Instead of dialing 9-1-1, she picks up the gun and shoots twelve bullets into his computer. All data, including the images he had been looking at when he died–destroyed.

This is Evie’s second harrowing encounter with a gun. At sixteen, she accidentally killed her father. What are the odds that one woman would be mixed up in two family tragedies?

Flora Dane, an abduction and rape survivor on a mission to help other traumatized women, recognizes the victim on TV as an associate of her now-dead kidnapper. The connection could be key to solving the crime. Had Evie’s husband led a double life?

With characteristic dry wit and forthright manners, Boston detective D.D. Warren wastes no time bringing these women together in pursuit of the truth. Always reliable, she gives the case clear-eyed sensibility mixed with experienced intuition. Peeks into D.D.’s home life add moments of humor to a dead-serious narrative.

From the start, Gardner immerses the reader in an atmosphere of doubt and betrayal while exploring the emotional journeys of three very different women. Without using graphic imagery or gratuitous violence, Gardner illustrates how the characters’ gruesome memories loom over their lives. That haunting environment is more potent and suspenseful than any detailed description 

Allusions to the horrors Evie and Flora have suffered aid Gardner’s exploration into trauma survival while following a classic whodunnit story structure. Particularly impressive is the thorough research into the psychological process that female survivors undergo while “reintegrating” into safe society after a crime. Women like Flora and Evie struggle to divide their former, naïve selves from their current, post-trauma selves, thus forging new, steelier identities. 

BookTrib had the pleasure of chatting with Lisa Gardner on her eclectic characters and the inside details on her gripping thriller Never Tell.

When asked what inspired her vivid, empowering female characters who endured unspeakable crimes, Gardner cites narratives told by real survivors. 

For Flora I drew upon a lot of the books written by survivors of long-term abductions. Elizabeth Smart is a model of resilience. She’s making waves in standing up for victim’s rights, and I think she is just terrific.”

Detective D.D. Warren confronts these tragic stories every day. Who inspired her?

“As writers, we often fall into two camps. We’re either writing shades of ourselves or the complete opposite. I love D.D. because she is my alter ego.

She says all the things I was raised to be too polite to say. She’s unapologetically who she is, and I think that’s hard for females to do, even strong successful women.

It’s somehow hardwired into us to apologize. Sorry I worked so late. Sorry I missed this or didn’t do that, even though we do a million things in a day. So, I find D.D. refreshing, and it’s fun to spend time in her presence.”

Gardner also tackles heinous villains in a matter-of-fact style that helps us understand their psychology.

I approach villains the way cops do, as a problem to be solved. … There’s a great quote that says reading thrillers is a form of mental preparedness. We read for the villains because we want to better understand the Jacobs [Flora’s abductor] of the world. If we understand them, maybe we will recognize them when they appear in our own lives.”

Gardner’s former career as a research analyst has been key in her ability to research and portray police and legal environments and describe post-trauma recovery.

“Being a research analyst gave me the courage to cold call, to identify what I’m trying to learn, and what organization or what person can answer my questions.

For Never Tell, I tried to understand incarceration procedures. What’s the booking process? Call the county jail and actually see the premises. In person, people warm up. You get the better stories, funny stories. It’s not just what the Suffolk County jail looks like, it’s what it smells like, sounds like. The creaking and groaning.”

That use of sensory imagery makes the novel shine, coupled with deft analogies that bring environments to life. On a greater atmospheric scale, cities play a significant role in the lives and events of Never Tell. Gardner talks about their importance in contemporary, urban crime fiction.

“Boston has a long and legendary history of crime and a wealth of variation between its neighborhoods. It has such a unique flavor and a long-running history of gangsters, violence and betrayal.

For a crime author, what’s not to love? Like all cities, it has a lot of the classic urban issues. If you’re writing an urban policing novel, you have to account for the issues going on in major cities. For Boston, like many, it is gentrification. 

I lived in Cambridge for years, so the house that Evie’s mom owns is based on a house I knew. When Flora talks about her apartment, it’s based on a place I used to live in, and Flora’s pizza job she’s never at is loosely based on one of my favorite little local pizza dives in Cambridge.”

With all these profound issues at play, Gardner’s conversational style makes Never Tellan easy, entertaining read. The facetious banter between Detective Warren and FBI agent Kimberly Quincy, who collaborates on the case, provides great levity. The evolution of their interactions from rivalry to eventual bonding is refreshing.

Such humorous scenes are some of Gardner’s favorites in her own work.

I love the family scenes because they’re a flight of normalcy in the midst of a book where families are equated with secrets and lies. It’s nice to see D.D., who’s given so much of herself to her job, really has pulled off a great little piece of paradise. One of the things I love about D.D. is that she is so capable in her professional life but on the home front with things like a puppy, things can be overwhelming.”

Speaking of which, Gardner shared this fun fact.

“Kiko, D.D.’s dog, is a real-life dog. She was put in the books through a charity auction where her owners donated to a local animal shelter to have Kiko honored. She’s a great dog in real life and in the book.” 

This novel will thrill readers who enjoy detective noir infused with women’s emotional journeys… and make you crave the next in the series.

Never Tell will be available to purchase February 19, 2019.

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ABOUT LISA GARDNER:

Lisa Gardner, a #1 New York Times bestselling thriller novelist, began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, she has transformed her interest in police procedure and criminal minds into a streak of internationally acclaimed novels, published across 30 countries. She’s also had four books become TV movies (At the Midnight Hour; The Perfect Husband; The Survivors Club; Hide) and has made personal appearances on TruTV and CNN.

Lisa’s books have received awards from across the globe. Her novel, The Neighbor, won Best Hardcover Novel from the International Thriller Writers, while also receiving the Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle in France. She was also recognized with the Daphne du Maurier Award in 2000 for The Other Daughter. Finally, Lisa received the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller Writers in 2017 for her work on behalf of at-risk children and the Humane Society.