Lisa Gardner

The Neighbor

Awarded Best Hard Cover Novel from the International Thriller Writers – July 2010

Top 10 of Best Books of 2009 – Suspense Magazine

Best Adrenaline Novel 2010 Reading List – American Library Association

Best Thriller of 2009 Nominee – Library Journal

Awarded Grand Prix des Lectrices de ELLE 2011 : prix du policier – “La maison d’à côté” – Elle Magazine

This is what happened …

It was a case guaranteed to spark a media feeding frenzy-a young mother, blond and pretty, disappears without a trace from her South Boston home, leaving behind her four-year-old daughter as the only witness and her handsome, secretive husband as the prime suspect.

In the last six hours …

But from the moment Detective Sergeant D. D. Warren arrives at the Joneses’ snug little bungalow, she senses something off about the picture of wholesome normality the couple worked so hard to create. On the surface, Jason and Sandra Jones are like any other hardworking young couple raising a four-year-old child. But it is just under the surface that things grew murkier.

Of the world as I knew it …

With the clock ticking on the life of a missing woman and the media firestorm building, Jason Jones seems more intent on destroying evidence and isolating his daughter than on searching for his “beloved” wife. Is the perfect husband trying to hide his guilt-or just trying to hide? And will the only witness to the crime be the killer’s next victim?

THE NEIGHBOR

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Reviews

“In bestseller Gardner’s gripping 11th thriller, Sgt. Det. D.D. Warren, last seen in 2007′s HIDE, looks into the curious disappearance of Sandra Jones, a sixth-grade social studies teacher, from her South Boston home: Sandra’s keys and purse were on the kitchen counter, nothing was disturbed, and her four-year-old daughter, Ree, to whom she was devoted, was asleep upstairs. The missing woman’s reporter husband, Jason, becomes an immediate suspect because he refuses to answer questions and appears to have destroyed evidence. As a media frenzy envelopes the case, Warren’s investigation reveals the couple’s life as anything but perfect or normal. Full of inventive twists, this highly entertaining novel delivers a shocking solution as well as a perfectly realized sense of justice. Fans will appreciate the deft way Gardner weaves in a key character from 2008′s SAY GOODBYE.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Boston police detective D. D. Warren returns in another suspenseful and stylish mystery. A pretty schoolteacher vanishes from her home, leaving behind a young daughter and a husband who doesn’t seem all that broken up over his wife’s disappearance. The first question Warren has to answer is, Was the woman abducted, or did she simply leave? But soon it becomes apparent that her departure was not voluntary, and the suspects begin to mount up: the not-so-grieving husband, who seems to be hiding some pretty big secrets; a neighbor who happens to be a registered sex offender; one of the victim’s students, a boy who might have some misguided feelings for the victim; even the woman’s estranged father, who won’t win any prizes for personality or compassion. But, through narrative passages written in the victim’s voice, the author shows us that the woman herself is deeply troubled and is perhaps not quite the innocent victim she appears to be. This is certainly Gardner’s most complex novel, and it will be a definite treat for her fans.” – Booklist

“Master storyteller Gardner really outdoes herself with her latest puzzler. Since the story is told from the vantage point of various main characters, exactly what’s going on remains cleverly shrouded. All of the characters have secrets and scars on their souls, and it’s what they do in a crisis that makes this an intensely thought-provoking and somewhat creepy novel. Pure Gardner genius!” – Jill M. Smith, RT Book Reviews, Top Pick for June

“Lisa Gardner readers already know to expect deeply moving characters, suspense, shock, pity, and-in the end-total satisfaction when they pick up one of her stunning novels. THE NEIGHBOR will soon involve any reader in the plight of the Joneses. Just be prepared for surprises.” – Jane Bowers, Romance Reviews Today

“THE NEIGHBOR is one of those incredibly smart mysteries that is almost impossible to figure out before all is ultimately revealed, driven in equal parts by a strong storyline and vibrant, sometimes quirky, characterization. Gardner also raises an extremely controversial and difficult issue that is just beginning to invade the public discourse. Should a 19-year-old man who has sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl be treated the same as a 24-year-old who forces himself or herself sexually upon a six-year-old? And is it fair to continue to penalize such individuals after they have served prison time? While Gardner frames this hot-button topic discreetly, she takes a major chance by presenting Brewster, a sex offender on one end of the spectrum, as a sympathetic character who in his own way arguably can be considered a victim. In the hands of a less capable author this would tip over into sensationalism, but for Gardner it proves to be a gutsy move that works.” – Joe Hartlaub, BookReporter.com

“Powered by a cast of realistically portrayed … characters as well as a cirtual closet full of nightmarish plot twists, Gardner’s latest is a pulse-pounding page-turner of the highest order.” – Bookpage.com

“Gardner has always been a master storyteller, but here she paints a vividly complex mosaic colored with lies and deceptively subtle clues. While her last book, the terrific SAY GOODBYE, broke new ground, THE NEIGHOR leaves us wondering if any ground is truly secure in a wired world where we’re menaced by the neighbors, whether next door or a thousand miles away. You’ll never look at an unlocked door, open window or Internet connection the same way again. Perfect for summer, a one-sitting read if ever there was one.” – Jon Land, The Providence Journal

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Discussion Questions/FAQs

THE NEIGHBOR features Boston PD Sergeant D.D. Warren from ALONE and HIDE. Why did you bring her back?
D.D. is one of those cameo actresses who totally steals the show. I never intended her to be anything other than a single-scene character for ALONE. But something about her-the attitude, the killer boots, I don’t know-she ended up becoming a major character. At the end of ALONE, she didn’t get her man. In HIDE, same problem; Bobby Dodge chose the other woman. So D.D. has stayed with me, my favorite hard-assed detective, still searching for more out of life than a great all-you-can-eat buffet.

What inspired the plot of the novel?
The Petersons. Scott Peterson. Drew Peterson. Is it just me, or are way too many men solving their marital woes by killing off their young, beautiful wives? I’m fascinated by the inherent drama. From the woman’s point of view, what’s it like to be sleeping with the man most likely to kill you? From the husband’s point of view, how do you go about the day after, looking for your missing spouse, caring for your children, balancing work and home life, when you have half the cable networks camped out on your front lawn? If you’re a psychopath, I suspect the attention’s gratifying. But if you’re an innocent man, the good guy just trying to do right by your traumatized child …

The novel opens with the disappearance of a young wife, Sandra Jones, told from her point of view. What was it like to write a novel where one of the most important characters is off stage?
I’d like to say I was brilliant and had this dynamic figured out from the start. In reality, I learned as I wrote. Sandra had to have a voice, because if you don’t care about her, what’s the point? So I started the book from her point of view, and I liked that so much, she kept on providing her voice to the novel. Then it turned out there’s a lot more to pretty little Sandy than I first imagined. Wait till you get to the spa weekends. My husband read that chapter, and told me I was never allowed to go to a spa again.

THE NEIGHBOR also features a four-year old girl, Ree. What was it like to write from the perspective of a small child?
I love Ree. Probably, in no small part because I had the world’s most adorable team of four-year old consultants assisting me with Ree’s development. Team Diva I called them. I’d load them up with Cheddar Bunnies, and they’d supply the movies Ree should watch, decorations for her room, her favorite dolls. We had a blast.

Jason Jones, Sandra’s husband, is definitely suspicious. It’s clear he’s a man with a lot to hide. How do you create a character that appears simultaneously guilty yet likable?
The trick with Jason is that he genuinely loves his daughter. His feelings for Sandy are much more complex, and as you learn about the marriage, you can understand that. But his complete and utter devotion to his daughter is established from page one. In fact, he and Sandy both are committed to their child. It’s the lengths they will go to in order to protect Ree that make this family so complicated.

You’re known for your research-what was some of the most fascinating things you learned while researching THE NEIGHBOR?
The research into sex offenders was the most interesting. Probably because the experts I interviewed, from parole officers, to court officers, to counselors, genuinely had nice things to say about them. One person, who assesses sex offenders for their risk of re-offending, likened them to bad people now on their best behavior, versus the parents he assesses for custody hearings, who are good people now on their worst behavior. Not that some sex offenders aren’t monsters, but the majority rehabilitate better than the media would have us believe. Fear sells papers. Success stories do not.

THE NEIGHBOR has a lot to do with intimate secrets and internal fears, how you never really know anyone, not even the people you love. What was it like to write a novel where danger literally lurks everywhere?
I’ve always been fascinated by the notion that danger is closer than you think. My first novel, THE PERFECT HUSBAND, was about the handsome charming handsome who moonlights as Ted Bundy. THE NEIGHBOR picks up on that theme, but is more equal opportunity. Sure, Jason definitely has something to hide. But Sandy … my, my, my does that girl have some secrets worth killing over. Let alone the registered sex offender, plus the overeager student who adores his missing school teacher, etc. etc. We all have a capacity for violence given the right set of circumstances. THE NEIGHBOR is all about finding that set of circumstances …

What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of writing THE NEIGHBOR?
Writing as a first person male sex offender. I’m known for my complex characters, and I didn’t want to disappoint. On the one hand, Aidan’s definitely done something very bad. On the other hand, he’s a young guy still trying to figure out life and how to make better choices. I don’t think you have to like him, per se, but I want you to understand him. He has a story to tell, and it’s worth listing to.

Will we see Sergeant D.D. again?
Yep.

What are you working on next?
Sergeant D.D. returns in my next novel where she investigates a string of family annihilations. All over Boston, fathers suddenly seem to be killing off their entire families. Coincidence or something more sinister at work? You’ll find out in 2010.

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Behind the Scenes

What Lisa had to say about ALONE (aka Book Seven) prior to its publication in January 2005:

November 24, 2003: Good news! I’ve actually start writing Book 7. First three pages felt like the toughest three pages I’ve ever written in my life. Apparently, if you spend your entire summer reading GOOD NIGHT MOON and watching home improvement shows, it does rot the brain.

But I’m getting into the swing of things now. Have a present murder, have a past crime, have a whole cast of interesting/dangerous people. I still don’t have a book title, of course-that would be too easy-but in its own way, Book 7 is starting to grow on me. It can be the start of new series, with the next novel cleverly titled Book 8. See, there’s hope.

In October, I spent some time in Boston doing research. Given that the hero of Book 7 is a police sniper, I started by interviewing some great guys who serve as law enforcement snipers. Two were with the FBI and three were with state police agencies. One of the most interesting things I learned was the importance of the cold bore shot.

First shot of the day is your cold bore shot; it’s the slug that travels from the unheated chamber of the gun down the unheated barrel. That shot warms the gun, so every other bullet fired has slightly different ballistics.

For a sniper, the assumption is that they will only ever fire one shot-the cold bore shot. Thus, instead of going to a firing range and simply unloading a rifle-which was my assumption-snipers train one shot at a time. Setting it up, calculating the ballistics, and then taking that single cold-bore shot. It’s about discipline, concentration and intense focus.

It’s also about really good aim. Police snipers target a one-inch triangle known as the kill zone. Basically, it’s the space right between a person’s eyes. The goal is to “immediately incapacitate” the suspect. That’s a diplomatic way of saying police snipers shoot to kill. Given that the suspect may be holding a gun to someone’s head, law enforcement officers can’t afford to wound or maim. No, if a sniper is called upon to take that shot, his goal is to severe a suspect’s brain stem. We’re talking some very serious shooting.

After meeting with several officers, my husband and I conducted a walking tour of Boston. We picked a house at random to serve as a model for the opening shooting sequence of the novel. I took lots of pictures, while my husband provided an engineer’s eye for details. Halfway through our little project, the homeowner returned and spotted us. I’m pretty sure some guy in Boston now thinks I’m casing his home. If only he really knew.

By the end of our time in Boston, the book had really come together in my mind. I can see where it’s going to happen. I know what is going to happen. I’m up to speed on S.W.A.T. team protocol, sniper training, and post-critical incident processes for both the Massachusetts State Police and the Suffolk County D.A. I even had an old friend walk me through all the ways you can use the law to destroy a man. It was a fascinating discussion.

Next up-actually writing the novel. Not talking about it, not researching it, not reading about it, but actually writing it. Now this is where life gets tricky.

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Details

Bantam Dell
Hardcover June 16, 2009
Paperback June 22, 2010
Cover Art © 2009 Steve Kennedy

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