Who’s Your Daddy? ~ Book Review of ‘The Other Daughter’ by Lisa Gardner

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on August 22, 2012 0 Comments

This is my first Lisa Gardner book…and it will probably be my last.  Gardner is known for her crime novels and romances (which she primarily wrote in the 90s under the name Alicia Scott).  The Other Daughter is a combination crime/romance and frankly, based on the stomach ache I developed while reading the love making scenes, I could have done without the romance.

            Daughter’s starts with a twenty-nine year Melanie Stokes getting ready for a fund raiser at her parents’ home.  She is overly accommodating to her parents all because she was abandoned at a Boston hospital at an estimated age of nine with no memory of her life before the episode.  She was adopted by one of the doctors who found her.  He and his wife five years prior had lost their four year old daughter Meagan who was killed by a Texas serial killer, Russell Lee Holmes.  Holmes was executed in 1977 in an electric chair (a memorable scene in the book) for his numerous crimes against little girls.  Present for the execution was Patricia Stokes, mother of Meagan, and her son Brian, who was Meagan’s older brother.  Dr. Harper Stokes remained in Boston (the family moved after their daughter’s death) where on the day of the execution Melanie showed up drugged but healthy.

          Overall it is an intriguing premise however the plot doesn’t hold water upon closer examination.  Melanie is hyper aware that she was adopted in an affluent family although on the surface no one makes much of a deal of it.  She has always thought of her family as perfect however things have started to fall apart in the last six months.  Brian has come out as gay and his father refuses to speak with him.  This incident triggered their mother’s drinking.  The good doctor deals with the stress by staying at the hospital more than necessary.  Melanie does a lot of charity work which is the reason the family home is being used for a big society party.  The gathering is the prefect cover for a down on his luck Texas reporter to confront Melanie over the possibility her biological father was Russell Lee Holmes.  Shocked by the allegation Melanie starts to faint (as well as get sick) and lands in the arms of a waiter who turns out to be an undercover FBI agent, David Riggs.  Ergo from shoes covered in vomit a romance is born.

           If the plot sounds convoluted at least the characters aren’t complicated.  They are so two dimensional that one would almost think they were cardboard cutouts.  That isn’t to say that Gardner is a writer of few words, quite the opposite in fact, but the more she writes about these people the more they felt flat.  They read all too stereotypical while most of the storyline feels as if it is a mid-80’s tale instead of a novel first published in 1999.  One of the major issues was that law enforcement kept referring to how screwed up the family was because the son was gay, the mother an alcoholic and the father possibly guilty of medical fraud.  The alcoholism and the medical fraud are bad things but not in the league of serial killer bad so suggesting that Melanie was no better off with them than the man executed in 1977 is a stretch.  Don’t even get me started on the big deal the gay thing was supposed to be. Gardner really needed to put some of this into perspective.  It was almost as if she had an ax to grind with people who work their way up the social strata.

             In terms of romance I was hoping that Melanie and Special Agent Riggs would not end up in the sack, but sadly my prayers were in vain.  The two of them got it on is a scene that took up about two and a half pages – about five minutes reading time (go ahead and jump to your own conclusions).  To add to the heat, Riggs suffered from intense arthritis which incapacitated his character while Melanie at one point attempts to embrace her trailer trash roots and ends up cutting off her blonde hair and dying it black while wearing a mini skirt and a barely there top.

              Probably my favorite part of the novel was when Melanie is tracing her family tree and she does the research at the Huntsville, Texas Prison Museum which, coincidently, I have actually visited (I even got a t-shirt to prove it, something about a chain gang).  She described the place as being next door to an ice cream parlor; it’s not.  But the description “Old Sparky” was dead on.  Pardon the pun.

           Despite my complaints I read The Other Daughter quickly because I wanted to know who Melanie’s real father was so I have to give Gardner a few points for that.  However at the end I felt disappointed.  Nothing was overtly shocking and Gardner did such a poor job defining any realistic motivations of her characters that it made the conclusion seem impractical and stupid.  Honestly, even if the characters were multi-dimensional the storyline had too many flaws to making any ending satisfactory.

             I would not recommend The Other Daughter even if you are offered a free download or see the book at your neighborhood library.  It isn’t worth the time and definitely not worth the five bucks I paid for it at Sam’s.

            Happy Reading!

Westerfield © 2012

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