I’d heard a lot about Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner before I picked up this thriller. What intrigued me the most about the main character – Frankie Elkin – was her similarity to one of my favorite literary characters, David Raker.
(If you haven’t read any of his books, you should definitely try them out. Reviews of most of the books in the series by Tim Weaver are available on this website.)
Like Raker, Elkin lived for a single obsession that not many understood – searching for missing persons that the world had all but forgotten. I dove into Before She Disappeared with a lot of expectations. Read on to find out if they were met.
Frankie Elkin is a recovering alcoholic and middle-aged woman who moves from place to place in search of persons who’ve gone missing. Once the police give up, the media forgets, and the world moves on, Elkin begins her search. One such mission brings her to Mattapan, Boston, a neighborhood with a rough reputation, and the home of missing Haitian teenager, Angelique Badeau. Elkin had expected the resistance from the local police and tight-lipped responses of those she spoke to. And neither of them manage to dampen her spirit. Elkin pushes for answers even as the danger grows and comes closer. Will Elkin find Angelique? And if she does, will she be enabling a reunion or a funeral?
2 out of 10 stars
8 out of 10 stars
6 out of 10 stars for every character, 2 out of 10 for Frankie Elkin
8 out of 10 stars for its mystery
6 out of 10 stars
Part of a Series:
Yes, this is Book #1 in the Frankie Elkin series. Book 2, One Step Too Far, was released on 18 Jan 2022.
A good mystery, which is unfortunately tainted by outdated stereotyping and a blatantly superficial attempt at being socially sensitive.
What I Liked:
Before She Disappeared, at its core, has a good mystery and story. But that might be the only good thing about it.
What I Didn’t Like:
I might be one of the few who didn’t like this acclaimed novel by Lisa Gardner. But those that felt the same did so for more or less the same reason – the unnecessary and never-ending focus on Frankie Elkin being a white woman and everyone else being a person of color. Literally every person is introduced by their race, and then most are painted with outdated, typical characteristics under the label of ‘culture’.
There was a statement where Elkin called herself the ‘superior gender’; there was also some stuff where she rambled on (in her never-ending thoughts) about how, even though she was an alcoholic and had a pretty terrible life she was ‘privileged’ because she was white, while the people she was trying to help – and she focuses on cases only concerning ‘marginalized communities’ – were oppressed.
I found the whole thing to be nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on social issue trends, as determined by social media research. Not to mention, Frankie Elkin, as a character, is just not likable and comes across as someone with a pretty toxic savior complex.
Who Should/Shouldn’t Read It:
I would not recommend Before She Disappeared to anyone. If you want to read books about missing persons, you would definitely enjoy Tim Weaver’s work more. If you want to read books about strong but flawed and/or strongwomen, you could opt for Iris Johansen, Rebecca du Maurier, Mary Higgins Clark, or even Harlan Coben.
Before She Disappeared was meant to be (I think) about a person who cared about those people that the world forgot. It ends up being anything but.
I know that this review may sound incredibly harsh. But the fact remains that Gardner actually had a great story, where readers could have rooted for a flawed protagonist and felt deeply for the victims of a crime. Instead, you’re left with characters that are toxic in the name of being strong and badly stereotyped in the name of culture.
All in all, in my honest opinion, Before She Disappeared seemed like wasted potential. I genuinely tried to like this book and pushed through hoping it would get better in spite of some cringe-worthy statements. I’m really disappointed that it didn’t, and I don’t think I’m going to be reading any more of Lisa Gardner’s work.
What did you think about Before She Disappeared or Lisa Gardner’s other work? Let us know in the comments below!
And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading this book review!