Book Review of Love You More (D. D. Warren, Bk 5)

Love You More (D. D. Warren, Bk 5)
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In Lisa Gardner's "Love You More," Tessa Leoni has a great deal on her plate. She has been a Massachusetts state trooper for four years and has a beautiful six-year-old daughter, Sophie, whose father's name Tessa does not even know. Leoni has an inner toughness that she will desperately need as she faces an uncertain future. Her husband of three years and Sophie's stepfather, Brian Darby, has been shot to death, and the evidence points to Tessa as the perpetrator. Worse, Tessa's little girl, Sophie, has disappeared. The detectives soon suspect that not only did Tessa gun down her husband in cold blood, but that she also killed and buried her daughter.

Handling the case is Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren, a forty-year old, ten-year veteran of the Boston Police Department. Assisting is Bobby Dodge, her former lover, who is a Massachusetts State Police Detective. D. D. is married to her job; she is sharp, aggressive, and ambitious, qualities that she shares with Tessa. Nevertheless, she has contempt for Leoni, whom she considers to be a conniving and selfish monster. D. D. is determined to nail this pretty and petite woman and put her away for a very long time. On the home front, D. D. has been dating Alex, a teacher at the police academy, for over six months. She is not sure if she has the temperament to make their relationship last.

D. D. and Bobby work the Leoni case, and it is a thankless task from the get-go. The forensic evidence is muddled, and Leoni, who is less than cooperative, has a battered and swollen face. Apparently, someone has beaten Tessa to a pulp. Will she claim that she shot Brian in self-defense because he was an abusive spouse? The situation becomes steadily more complicated and ambiguous, and D. D. is furious when she suspects that Tessa has been lying to them from the beginning.

Lisa Gardner, whose fans are legion, is the undisputed queens of the domestic thriller. The reasons for her popularity include: tough heroines who are even more macho than their male counterparts; byzantine plots in which the truth is carefully veiled; gripping scenes of suspense and violence; and conclusions that always include an extra, unforeseen twist. Although "Love You More" contains all of these elements, Gardner may have overreached this time. Tessa Leoni is a character we can and do root for. However, the author would have us believe that this woman is a master of weaponry, strategy, and hand-to-hand combat, and is so self-possessed that she can think clearly while navigating the most arduous and hazardous obstacles. When it comes to her personal life, on the other hand, she is woefully naïve.

Still, this is a page-turner that will appeal to aficionados of escapist fiction. Readers will realize fairly quickly that Brian's death is anything but a straightforward homicide, and it is fun to follow the clues along with the high-strung D. D. Warren. There is plenty of action to keep us engrossed; the roller-coaster ride never slows down until the final pages. Even though "Love You More" is a bit over-the-top, Gardner is a skilled enough writer to keep us engaged. She includes fascinating details about prisons, police procedure, and the challenges faced every day by overworked and harried homicide detectives. Gardner leaves us entertained and eager to follow the further adventures of the intrepid D. D. Warren.