(This post was originally published at http://eaymar.com/blog/116540.)

Lisa Gardner’s novel has one of the more intriguing premises I’ve come across – a woman’s two best friends are killed, on the same day over the last two years, and she worries that as the same day comes closer this year, her time may be next. CATCH ME plays with the point-of-view to an almost haphazard extent, easily switching from first-person to third-person and spanning a number of different characters. I’ve talked with publishing authorities who rigidly claim that thrillers should be third-person affairs, and it’s always nice to see someone gleefully disregarding those rules.

This book has one other thing that a lot of thrillers do not: a deeply-felt emotional core, centered around detective D.D. Warren’s new baby. It’s tough for writers to write about children without resorting to clichés, but Gardner does so with insight and honesty. Detective Warren has a soft side, nervously floating just under the surface, and Gardner uses the baby to coax that tenderness out of her character.

In regards to Detective Warren, CATCH ME plunges the deepest into police procedural and cop speak of all the Edgar-nominated and ITW-nominated novels I’ve read. I’ve enjoyed Gardner books before, but this time I looked up information about her to see if she had a criminal law background. She doesn’t, which makes her detailed research that much more impressive.

CATCH ME also touches around a distressing trend in crime fiction: pedophilia (distressing because this issue has grown into something so prevalent). Gardner has so much despairing information about pedophiles that, mid-book, you’ll want to lock your kids into a closet and sit outside of it with a shotgun. Or throw your computer into the river. I mentioned earlier how impressed I was by her research, and that continues here. But you can't help but feel bad for Gardner because this amount of extensive research into child predators must have been overwhelming. And gross.

In any event, that’s a testament to the writer, because you’ll shudder, but you won’t stop reading.

Lisa Gardner is the only woman nominated in this category. In fact, of the thirty writers nominated for awards, only five are women. It’s no secret that crime fiction tends to be dominated by male writers, but that’s a trend that’s hopefully changing (as Sara Weinman noted when I interviewed her). Writers like Laura Lippman, Lyndsay Faye, Kate Atkinson, Lisa Gardner, Megan Abbott and Gillian Flynn (and others) have produced work this year that is as competitive or better than anything the men wrote. Some of it was recognized, but not enough.

There's an argument that the fiction men and women produce is necessarily different: women have a deeper emotional reach while men focus on mechanics, which inherently favors male crime fiction. Of course that argument is bullshit, because there are examples by writers of either sex that dispel that notion (wait until next week's review). ITW is not a sexist organization bereft of female leadership, and I don't want to take anything away from this year's nominated writers and the terrific books they wrote, but hopefully more women writers will be recognized in years to come.

I love you.


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