Sunday, February 16, 2020
The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day: Reading Room Review
Lori Rader-Day writes original stories. In fact, she is one of my favorite Masters of originality, along with a select group of authors who are masters at writing stand-alone stories that readers will never have read the likes of before. A few of her contemporaries in this group that I also love are Catriona McPherson, Lou Berney. and Jane Harper. Lori Rader-Day has made her mark in just five years and five books, and although I realize that she has been involved in writing longer than that with shorter fiction, she has become a major force in mystery/crime fiction in pretty short order, and that's quite an accomplishment. I know when I open a book by Lori, I am entering a place I never expected to be, right along with some of her characters. And, those characters bring a uniqueness to the stories, not in a loud, showy way, but they are the extraordinary ordinary of life. The twists and turns of making sense of their existence reveal how complex the seeming ordinary can be. The layers of what brought the characters to their defining moments are rich with the unexpected. The Lucky One is this author's fifth book, and it will no doubt receive awards and award nominations like her others. Readers respond with much deserved adulation when a book is special, and The Lucky One is perhaps Lori Rader-Day's most special book yet, with its deep twisting plot and the layered revelations its characters experience.
Alice Fine works for her father in the construction business he co-owns in Chicago, and she doesn't have much of a life otherwise. No friends, an ex-fiancée, and a lone hobby that doesn't require interaction with others. That hobby is an odd choice for a hobby, but it's one that has a personal connection for Alice. She belongs to an online group called the Doe Pages, people who post about those who have vanished, from missing persons being posted to unidentified remains being found somewhere. The "Does" try to find information on the missing and sometimes to match up the remains to the missing . It's not the most cheerful way to spend time, but for Alice, it's a mission. She was kidnapped as a child and rescued by her father, who was a cop at the time. She wants everyone who's missing a loved one to have a happy ending, but if they can't, she wants them to have resolution. Although she herself never had the resolution of knowing who her kidnapper was or knowing he had been caught, she feels lucky that she was that rare victim who was rescued in a matter of hours. Of course, she knows even the lucky ones suffer from fall-out, as her family had to move from their small town in Indiana to Chicago, her father changed careers, and her mother was never whole again before she died.
Alice's uneventful world is turned upside down when she sees a picture she recognizes as her kidnapper on the Doe site. Someone has listed him as missing, and Alice realizes she has a need to find him, to fill in blanks that have surrounded her kidnapping all her life and to bring him to justice for his crime. As it happens, Alice has agreed to meet some of the Does for lunch at a diner, and she ends up confiding in the other two who show up, Juby and Lillian, about her kidnapped past and the discovery of the missing man, Richard Miller, who she remembers as her kidnapper. With Lillian being a researcher of some success for the Doe Pages and Juby being an enthusiastic force, as well as Lillian's friend, Alice enlists their aid in finding Richard Miller. She says nothing to her father because she wants to be sure of what she's doing before getting his hopes up.
Lillian's research gets them started in Milwaukee, where they go and find their first clues. But, their search will take them back to several towns in Indiana, including the town where Alice lived when she was kidnapped, Victorville. They also meet another person in their searching, Merrily Cruz, and Merrily is looking for Richard or Rick, as she calls him, too. But, Merrily has a different reason than Alice to find Rick. He had been a father figure of sorts to Merrily and involved with her mother, so she's worried about his safety, and she has questions about why he disappeared from their lives so long ago. It seems both Alice and Merrily are looking to close gaps in their lives so that they can move forward. Merrily becomes involved in the group's search, with her memories adding to the growing information about Rick. Merrily's story is as relevant and important as Alice's, and Lori Rader-Day divides the narrative into alternating chapters from both women, although the narrative might lean a bit more on the side of Alice's telling. What becomes apparent to both women is that they have lived lives full of secrets and lies, and the dominant parent in each life, Alice's father and Merrily's mother, have answers that they keep locked inside. Fortunately, both women, along with Juby and Lillian, are resourceful. Of course, with answers there will come new danger, and the players in the shadows are ruthless in their dedication to keeping sleeping dogs asleep.
The Lucky One is a cold case with a burning fervor. The secrets of thirty years, the covered tracks and intricate manipulations are all wonderfully peeled away by the author to reveal a story of deep deception. Lori Rader-Day is an author who can build the sturdiest of structures and take it apart piece by piece with the smoothest of motion to show the darkness that lies within. It's a dissembling of the fraud behind the truth, and in The Lucky One, readers will be gobsmacked by the best.
I received an advanced copy of The Lucky One from the publisher, and my review reflects only my own words of praise for an amazing, thrilling read.