Lisa Gardner

Touch & Go

International Thriller Writers - Best Novel of the Year Nominee 2013

This is my family: Vanished without a trace. . . .

Justin and Libby Denbe have the kind of life you’d find in the pages of a glossy magazine. A beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter. A gorgeous brownstone on a tree-lined street in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. A great marriage, admired by all. A perfect life.

This is what I know: Pain has a flavor. . . .

When investigator Tessa Leoni arrives at the crime scene in the foyer of the Denbes’ home, she finds scuff marks on the floor and a million tiny pieces of bright green Taser confetti. The family appears to have been abducted, with only a pile of their cell phones and electronic devices remaining. No witnesses, no ransom demands, no motive. Just a perfect little family, gone.

This is what I fear: The worst is yet to come. . . .

Tessa knows better than anyone that flawless fronts can hide the darkest secrets. Now she must race against the clock to uncover the Denbes’ innermost dealings, a complex tangle of friendships and betrayal, big business and small sacrifices. Who would want to kidnap such a perfect little family? And how far would such a person be willing to go?

This is the truth: Love, safety, family . . . it’s all touch and go.

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"Gardner generates... irresistible momentum"  - Kirkus Review

"The suspense builds as the action races to a spectacular conclusion and the unmasking of the plot's mastermind" - Starred Review - Publishers Weekly

"Gardner pulls readers right into Libby's personal and family drama as she bears witness to the horrific captivity her family undergoes...  Gardner's previous thriller, CATCH ME, debuted at number two on the New York Times best-seller list; this one is likely to follow suit." - Stephanie Zvirin - Booklist

"Lisa Gardner, the master of the psychological thriller, has delivered another tour de force with "Touch & Go," which exposes the raw nerves of a family imploding, and an investigator trying to escape her past.

Justin Denbe and his wife, Libby, return from a night out to discover intruders in their home. They witness their 15-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, being attacked with a stun gun before they are attacked as well.

The family is taken to a state-of-the-art penitentiary that Denbe's firm built but was never put into use. As they wait to learn their captors' motive, they struggle to be civil to one other. (Justin had an affair, Libby is addicted to painkillers, and Ashlyn has a secret boyfriend.)

Private investigator Tessa Leoni still lives with the aftermath of the horrible events that changed her life forever, as told in Gardner's earlier novel, "Love You More." She is hired by Denbe Construction to investigate the family's kidnapping. Both Leoni and the authorities are surprised there is no ransom demand.

Why were the Denbes abducted? How do their kidnappers know so much about them? And is it possible for them to get past their grievances and escape from captivity?

Gardner does an amazing job of creating realistic situations and characters with emotional resonance. The constant surprises will shock even the most jaded thriller reader.

A character says in the beginning of the novel, "Pain has a flavor. The question is, what does it taste like to you?" "Touch & Go" is the opposite of pain; it's a total pleasure." - Jeff Ayers - Associated Press

"...Gardner is considered to be one of the best in the business, and for good reason. She delivers twist after twist, pulling off complexities with apparent ease, all culminating in a breathtaking finale that is both satisfying and surprising. Ultimately, it’s readers who are taken captive – and Gardner who is holding the reins, every step of the way…"  - Hartford Examiner - John Valeri

"The suspense crackles as the Denbes grapple with their captors' bewildering brutality. But what gives the story heart is Libby's dawning realization that her family may have been broken long before their kidnappers appeared." - PEOPLE Magazine

"Whip-crack taut, the book still finds time to reveal a great deal about human character: Gardner is very subtle." - Daily Mail (UK) - Geoffrey Wansell

"Gardner keeps the suspense high." - The Sunday Mirror (UK)

"What is refreshing about “Touch and Go” is that it is a story that is much more than an intoxicating crime thriller. It is a terrifying tale that is set against a backdrop of human emotion and family strife, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill, formula-driven police investigation stories that focus almost exclusively on the police as opposed to telling the story from the victim’s perspective.

The author brings to life all of the fears, insecurities and vulnerabilities that are part of the human condition by creating characters that are so very real that you can see them in your mind’s eye. Readers feel what is inside the story’s protagonist as she runs through a gauntlet of shifting emotions. Gardner combines this human drama with knife’s-edge suspense, as all along the way you keep hoping against hope that the cops will figure it all out before it’s too late. So if you love a nail-biting thriller that will keep you turning the pages until the very end, you’ll love “Touch and Go” as much as I did." - Nashua Telegraph - Paul Collins

"...Lisa Gardner's pitch-perfect journey into affluent suburbia's dark underbelly... No one writes this kind of modern horror tale better than Gardner, no one." - Providence Journal - Jon Land

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Discussion Questions/FAQs

TOUCH & GO Reader’s Questions

1)      What was your initial impression of each character of the Denbe family at the beginning of the book? How did those impressions evolve or change throughout the novel?

2)      In Touch & Go there are two “family units” throughout most of the book, the Denbes and their captors. Do you see any similarities between these two units? Do these groups mirror each other in any way?

3)      The Denbe family faces some loaded issues throughout the novel. Do you think that the way they handle these issues in captivity is similar (albeit amplified) to how they would have handled them in their normal life?

4)      What did you consider the most torturous aspect of the Denbes captivity? Physical? Mental?

5)      Radar is a complex character. Do you think he redeems himself by helping the Denbes while in captivity?

6)      Z is portrayed as a villain with a moral code.  Does that make him admirable, or does the fact that he’s adamant about some rules — he always keeps his word —make it more heinous that he’s willing to cross other lines? 

7)      Do you blame Justin for his family’s situation—both their captivity and their broken nature—or do you see their predicament as a joint effort?

8)      Children are a strong theme throughout the book. Tessa is concerned for her daughter as are the Denbes for their daughter, but sometimes the children seem to have more insight than the adults. Do you think Lisa Gardner did this on purpose?

9)      Libby Denbe turns to prescription drug use as an escape from her husband’s infidelity. Because of this, is it possible to view Libby as a hero?

10)  Many of the characters in this book appear innocent but turn out to be extremely flawed. Which characters (if any) were you surprised by when you found out their darkest secrets?

11)  What do you think will happen with Tessa and Wyatt?

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Dutton Books
Hardcover February 5, 2013
Paperback November 5, 2013
Cover Art © 2013

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