Home > 2010, 21st Century, American Literature, Crime Fiction, Gardner Lisa, Polar, Thriller > Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner – déjà vu and too clichéd for my taste.

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner – déjà vu and too clichéd for my taste.

January 22, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner (2013) French title: Famille parfaite.

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner was our Book Club choice for January. It’s a thriller set in Boston and in New Hampshire.

Justin has been married to Libby for eighteen years and they have a fifteen-year-old daughter, Ashlyn. In appearance, they look like a perfect family. Justin is an entrepreneur and took over his father’s construction company and developed it. Libby works from home and creates jewels. She mostly has the role of a trophy wife, entertaining Justin’s clients and employees, being the main care giver to Ashlyn.

Justin and Libby’s marriage exploded six months ago, when Libby discovered that Justin cheated on her with a twenty-something travel agent from his office.

And now, they get kidnapped in their Bostonian brownstone. The Boston police arrive on the scene but the FBI takes over as soon as Justin’s jacket is found in New Hampshire. The local sheriff, Wyatt assists the Feds. Tessa Leoni, a former state trooper has been hired by Denbe Construction as a private investigator and is on the case too.

We’re in a classic thriller where on the one hand, we follow the investigation team and on the other hand, we follow what happens to the Denbes through Libby’s thoughts and point of view.

The plot is fast paced, I read it as you watch an action movie. It’s entertainment. But…it’s a weak book.

Half way through the book, I guessed the ending which is the kiss of death for a crime fiction book.

If the reader finds out so early in the story, who did it and why, it means that the plot is too thin and not woven properly. I don’t feel like a clever reader, I only think that the writer is not up to par.

The other weakness is the string of thriller clichés: the rich husband who cheats on his wife, the wife who has no real professional life but sells the jewels she makes, the crumbling façade of a perfect marriage, the kidnapping, Tessa Leoni and her traumatic past and the attraction brewing between her and Wyatt.

Other easy plot devices arrive later in the game but they would be spoilers, so…The only cliché that is missing is the classic conflicts between FBI, local police and PI. They get along rather well.

I’ll spare you the banal thoughts about marriage, love, pain and guilt that Libby inflicts on the reader as part of her thought process.

All this would have been insufferable in lit fiction but when it’s crime fiction, we seem more forgiving as a we’re only looking for a good time.

Then, it got me thinking about common tropes in fiction and I wondered how some American authors would fare if they were French. Indeed, writing in a French context would mean:

1 – Free social security. So, characters with crippling health bills are out of the question,

2 – Community property as the most common matrimonial regime meaning that property owned by one spouse before marriage, and gifts and inheritances received during marriage, are treated as that spouse’s separate property in the event of divorce. All other property acquired during the marriage is treated as community property and is subject to division between the spouses in the event of divorce. (Wikipedia) No prenup-driven plots or one-spouse-loses-all plots when divorce is involved.

3 – By law, one cannot totally disinherit their children or give all of their money to one heir. The part that one can freely dispense of depends on the composition of the legal heirs. Say you have two children, you’re free to do whatever you want with one third of your money. The rest goes automatically to your children. It limits the power of inheritance driven plots, no?

Back to the book.

My billet may sound a bit harsh as the book has a solid 4.07 stars on Goodreads. That’s my opinion. I like my crime fiction more literary and more original but I understand why other readers enjoyed Touch and Go.

Stay tuned and discover soon a wonderful Italian crime fiction book that mixes a good plot, original police characters and a great dose of information about Sardinia’s culture.  

What do you think? Have you read this book?

PS: A word about the covers. The American one is OK. The French ones are just awful. The person who chose the picture of Wisteria Lane has not read the book as the Denbe’s brownstone is almost a character of the book. And the other one with the young girl behind the wire netting, I don’t see how it relates to the book.

  1. Vishy
    January 22, 2022 at 11:11 pm

    Loved your review, Emma? Sorry to know that the book wasn’t as good as you had hoped. Your comment about the cliches made me smile 😄 Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


    • January 23, 2022 at 12:45 pm

      Well, I really don’t like it when I guess before the ending. 🙂


      • Vishy
        January 23, 2022 at 4:08 pm

        You are smarter than the author 😊


  2. January 22, 2022 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks for sparing me the banal details. This author is popular here, but I’ve never been tempted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 23, 2022 at 12:43 pm

      I saw on Goodreads you hadn’t read it and it kind of tipped me off.
      I’m not surprised you’ve never been tempted. Don’t bother.


  3. January 23, 2022 at 2:10 am

    I’m with Guy about this author – never been tempted. But I enjoyed your list of why common American thriller tropes wouldn’t work in France!


    • January 23, 2022 at 12:42 pm

      To be honest, it wasn’t my choice, but I thought “Why not?” I’m not too fond of thrillers anyway.
      If I want to read good entertaining crime fiction, I still have a lot of Connellys ahead of me. I’ll stick to Harry Bosch.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. January 23, 2022 at 2:59 am

    I read too much ordinary US crime fiction, it’s a large part of what the libraries carry in audiobooks. I did a search and found I had read one Lisa Gardner in 2019. I don’t remember it. But I rarely think along whodunnit lines so I probably just observed the action flowing without speculating about what might happen next. My pet hate is action scenes, they make little sense in a movie and none in a book.
    Love your list of the ways US motives for crime wouldn’t work in France.


    • January 23, 2022 at 12:37 pm

      I imagine it’s fine to listen to while driving: you don’t need to pay too much attention about the style but the story flows well.
      I’m like you when I read cry fiction: I don’t speculate either but here, it just slammed into me like the obvious outcome. Weak plot, that’s all it is, I’m afraid.


  5. January 23, 2022 at 1:10 pm

    Ah, and you haven’t even come across that whole spate of domestic crime thrillers that seem to be neverending and so sameish here in the UK. I think that might have been part of the reason I stopped reviewing for Crime Fiction Lover (as well as the fact that I didn’t have any time) – I was getting far too many of those and couldn’t think of anything new to say.


    • January 23, 2022 at 1:31 pm

      I’m not really interested in serial killers, kidnappings. Most of them happen to women and all the books sound the same.
      I understand how it could be tiring to read about them repeatedly.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. January 23, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    It doesn’t sound brilliant, Emma, and I have pretty much given up reading modern crime or thrillers because they’re so cliched and dull (and often full of extreme violence against women). Interesting points you make about the differences between France and America too!


    • January 23, 2022 at 5:40 pm

      I’ve given up on thrillers too, unless they’re classics.
      But there is excellent modern crime fiction out there, like The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre. Totally new.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. January 24, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    “All this would have been insufferable in lit fiction but when it’s crime fiction, we seem more forgiving as a we’re only looking for a good time.” Heheh


    • January 29, 2022 at 8:28 am

      That’s what we call “roman de gare” in French and crime fiction has had a hard time recovering from this derogaroty term.
      I like my crime fiction more literary and more inventive.


  8. January 31, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    I’m not a big thriller reader so when I do, I like them a bit different. I don’t think this is for me. Glad The Island of Souls worked out better for you!


    • January 31, 2022 at 10:35 pm

      It’s very mainstream crime fiction and I don’t like them anymore. I’m picky.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. January 30, 2022 at 10:43 am

I love to hear your thoughts, thanks for commenting. Comments in French are welcome

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