One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner #BookReview #BlogTour


A young man disappears during a stag weekend in the woods. Years later, he's still missing.

But his friends who were with him that day are still searching for him. Still hunting for answers.

They hike deep into the wilderness.

With them is missing person specialist Frankie Elkin.

What they don't know is that they are putting their own lives in terrifying danger, and may not come back alive . . .

I'm thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for One Step Too Far today, huge thanks to Lisa Gardner and to Rachel Kennedy at Cornerstone for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lisa Gardner's Before She Disappeared when I read it last year and said at the end of my review that I hoped it wouldn't be the last we see of Frankie Elkin. One Step Too Far isn't just her welcome return, it's also confirmation that she is one of the most engaging new characters in crime fiction.
It struck me that Frankie could perhaps be described as the messed-up, human equivalent of the Littlest Hobo as she travels from town to town helping those in need. Admittedly she sees a happy ending less often, acknowledging that when she looks for a missing person, she is most often looking for their body. Nevertheless, she keeps moving on, offering her assistance to those who need to know what happened to their loved one, even if that results in them having their worst fears finally realised - because even that is better than never knowing. It means this series immediately has an advantage over many others, as the constantly changing locations will ensure it never feels stale.
In the previous book, Frankie was in Boston, this time she's in rural Wyoming; the contrast between the two places couldn't be more striking and yet she may be in even more danger here than in the city. She makes a snap decision to head to the small town of Ramsey when she reads about the disappearance of Timothy O'Day in a small local paper. Tim went missing on his stag weekend and the book actually opens with the immediate aftermath as his three of his friends stumble into town in a state of panic, babbling about mountain lions and bears. However, despite an extensive search at the time, Tim was never found and now five years have passed and his father, Martin is still searching, now on a last-ditch effort to find his son and to bring him home.
It's probable from the start that this isn't going to be an uplifting story about a heroic rescue against all the odds. When Frankie offers to join the search party, she is hardly welcomed with open arms and it's perhaps her determination to join complete strangers who haven't asked for her help which makes her such a fascinating protagonist. She is good at what she does but she doesn't have any obvious skills besides a keen sense of intuition and a stubborn nature which ensures she doesn't ever want to give up. She carries the weight of her own past with her and at times it threatens to overwhelm her but it also explains why she has chosen this life. It's not necessary to have read Before She Disappeared but there are a few references here to people she met in that book and between that story and this one, the little glimpses we are given into her past help us to build a clearer picture of what shaped this wise-cracking, complicated, resolute woman.
It's a begrudging Martin who eventually agrees to her joining the team and it's from here that the authenticity of the writing really shines through. From the preparations undertaken by the small group of people headed into the wilderness, to the descriptions of their gruelling hike, to the discussions about the work of cadaver dogs, it's clear that this is a book informed by the meticulous research that went into writing it. This attention to detail also establishes a rich sense of place which casts the reader into the terrifyingly demanding terrain.
Frankie joins Martin; Nemeth, an uncompromising local guide who seems almost hewn from the landscape he leads them into; a dog handler with her search-and-rescue dog; Tim's groomsmen friends; and Bob, a larger-than-life Bigfoot expert. They are a disparate bunch and not all immediately easy to warm to but Lisa Gardner is superb at creating these complex, flawed characters who by turn frustrated, surprised and endeared me to them. As Frankie quickly realises she is one of the weakest links but then suspects she may have more to worry about than whether she can keep up with the group, One Step Too Far becomes both a nerve-shredding, terror-drenched thriller and an intense, raw tale of loss, grief and friendship.
The tension escalates unrelentingly and I tore through the pages in just a few hours but although this is undeniably a compulsively chilling, tautly plotted nightmare, it's also a more measured exploration of the separate yet tragically  intertwined stories of these characters. What drives each of them to pit themselves against the elements, each other and whatever other dangers are waiting for them is equally as compelling as their desperate bid to survive the unimaginable horrors that confront them.
I absolutely loved One Step Too Far, it's an exhilarating rollercoaster of a thriller and a memorable, compassionate study of broken people. To borrow from the lyrics of The Littlest Hobo theme song, maybe tomorrow Frankie Elkin will want to settle down but until tomorrow she'll just keep moving on - and I can't wait to join her again for a while. Very highly recommended.

One Step Too Far will be published in the UK by Century on 20th January 2021, purchasing links can be found here but please considered supporting independent bookshops whenever possible.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Lisa Gardner started her writing career aged seventeen. Having caught her hair on fire while working in food service, crafting a novel seemed a safer bet. A mere ten years later she became an overnight success with the publication of her first thriller, The Perfect Husband. Now an internationally bestselling author and winner of the International Thriller Writers Award for best suspense novel, Lisa lives in the mountains of New Hampshire with her family. When not glued to her computer, she can be found hiking the mountains with her dogs and/or researching new and interesting ways to get away with murder.