Dangerous Rescue and a Killer on Death Row in Lisa Gardner’s Remote Island Thriller

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Lisa Gardner was on a remote island three hours by plane off the coast of Hawaii, surrounded by giant cannibal coconut crabs and dripping wet from the unrelenting humidity when she knew this nightmarish, and yet somehow magical, paradise would inspire the setting for Still See You Everywhere, the third book in her bestselling Frankie Elkin series. 

Gardner, an outdoor enthusiast and boots-on-the-ground researcher, had joined five other women on an environmental research trip hosted by the Nature Conservancy. Though well-traveled, this was the most remote Gardner had ever been — no cell service, no plumbing, no access to modern amenities. In fact, when the trip was extended three days due to a storm that prevented the plane’s landing, the group had no choice but to fish for the raw tuna that sustained them. 

“It was an amazing experience,” Gardner says, in an interview with BookTrib. “But you know how it is when you’re a writer. By Day 3, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is just too good.’” 
And by good, she means slightly terrifying. 

“The humidity…” she says, trailing off as though reliving that constant state of being uncomfortably “wet.” “I wanted to be dry like you wouldn’t believe. If you get even so much of a scratch in that environment, you can get an infection. Two women in our group did and needed antibiotics, because nothing heals, nothing recovers in that kind of humidity. It was such an extreme experience—how could you not think of the suspense as a thriller writer?” 

Setting does play an integral part of ratcheting up the tension in Still See You Everywhere, but Gardner leans into more than 30 years of crafting the kinds of stories that keep you up at night. The pacing, much like the humidity on that island, is relentless.  

It’s true that Frankie is a clear departure from the detective and law enforcement characters that have built Gardner’s impressive career — her somewhat humble mission is to find the missing people others, including the police, have forgotten about. It should be cerebral, somewhat non-violent, a way to stay sober. But as Frankie continues to evolve, she finds herself in more life and death situations. 

That’s certainly the case in Still See You Everywhere, in which Frankie is tasked with finding the missing sister of a serial killer on death row. The Beautiful Butcher — convicted of murdering 18 men and feeding them to pigs — has one last request before her death: find her younger sister, presumed to have been kidnapped, and bring her home. Dead or alive. 

It might be Frankie’s toughest case — and the storyline is one Gardner grappled with as well.  

“I’m not completely sure where I stand on the death penalty, to tell you the truth,” she says. “There are criminals I think, yes, they’ve done terrible things and deserve to die, but I wouldn’t say our system is bulletproof either. Frankie doesn’t have to like the Beautiful Butcher — but the scenario she’s talking about, that’s the kind of injustice Frankie is trying to fight.” 

The engaging plot, an idyllic setting, and flawed but compelling characters — all hallmarks of Gardner’s work — are enough to fuel this novel, but as with all her books, the subtext is infused with fascinating facts and commentary about women on death row (there are only seven), the toxic environment of prisons and correctional facilities, and perhaps most importantly, the very real plight of marginalized communities.

This is something Gardner — and Frankie — will continue to explore in Book 4, when Frankie goes to Tucson, Arizona to help locate a missing female refugee from Afghanistan. This story, too, was inspired by Gardner’s research and will no doubt hit with the same intensity as the previous three books in the series.

About Lisa Gardner:

Lisa Gardner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty suspense novels, including The Neighbor, which won Thriller of the Year from the International Thriller Writers. An avid hiker, traveler, and cribbage player, she lives in the mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

(Photo Credit: Philbrick Photography)



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