Find Me (Inland Empire #1)

Read:  September 2020

Author:  Anne Frasier

Published:  2020

Genre:  Mystery / Suspense

Length:  285 pgs (paperback)  |  9h 16m (audio)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Average Review: 

Convicted serial killer Benjamin Fisher has finally offered to lead San Bernardino detective Daniel Ellis to the isolated graves of his victims.  One catch: he’ll only do it if FBI profiler Reni Fisher, his estranged daughter, accompanies them.  As hard as it is to exhume her traumatic childhood, Reni can’t say no.  She still feels complicit in her father’s crimes.

Perfect to play a little lost girl, Reni was the bait to lure unsuspecting women to their deaths.  It’s time for closure.  For her.  For the families.  And for Daniel.  He shares Reni’s obsession with the past.  Ever since he was a boy, he’s been convinced that his mother was one of Fisher’s victims.

Thirty years of bad memories are flooding back.  A master manipulator has gained their trust.  For Reni and Daniel, this isn’t the end of a nightmare… it’s only the beginning.

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Gigglemug Reviews

Lady Esbe: 

This has been a long time coming.  I have been seeking a great mystery book and while this does not rise to the point of perfect for me, it is certainly close.  I like to try figure out the “who dunnit” before it is revealed in the novel and there were points where Anne Frasier made me doubt my line of thought.  Frasier gave me a story that I actually stressed me out at the progression of the story and how the characters are affected by the progress of plot.  This was truly a well-crafted mystery that intrigues, gets your sleuthing instincts involved in the reading experience, and I am excited for the sequel next year. Honestly, I was disappointed that I could not just pick up the second one and finish the series.

I enjoy that Frasier did not oversimplify her character development.  Each character had his or her own strength and weaknesses.  Even the characters who were “evil” were not always so, and makes the reader question their perception.  In fact, she captures how many neighbors reflect upon their discovered serial killer neighbor, that “he was quiet, just a normal guy”, when the person was anything but.  Take John Wayne Gacy for example, he was a clown for children’s parties!  Ok, most of us have a thing about clowns anyway, but who is supposed to be the mildest mannered and least threatening person than a children’s clown (Pennywise does not count)?  But Mr. Gacy certainly proved that assumption wrong.  For instance, when you examine the main character, Reni, you can make many observations and assumptions about her character.  She holds guilt at her part, even though she is a child at the time, in the luring of women to their deaths.  However, you realize that though she is traumatized, there is still love for her father, even if she is profoundly disappointed in his manipulation of her youth.  Furthermore, she seeks to redeem herself as an adult by becoming an FBI profiler, even though she is mentally fragile herself.  This fragility causes her retreat from this life to find solace and peace.  Would you blame her?  How can you look for and interact with serial killers day in and day out and not be reminded that your own father was one of these individuals?  She could very easily be reminded daily of her “failures” as a child and not being able to save more.  Frasier provides Reni with strength in how she moves forward in her quests despite her uncertainty or reluctance to become embroiled in her father’s shenanigans again.

The relationship between Reni and her mom was maddening to me.  Reni is the daughter who needs her mother’s support and comfort on one level, and on another, there is something just below the surface that rings false in the relationship.  The crafting of this strain between the two could be attributed to the relationship that either had with Reni’s father or just the typical mom/daughter difficulties.  In all honesty, though Frasier had Roslyn appear to be an empathetic character, there was such narcissism present in her character that gave me pause and got my wheels spinning on what I thought.  One key scene for me that struck me as off, but with purpose, was when Roslyn was attempting to convince Reni to attend an awards ceremony with Roslyn.  While it could be seen as mom doing the “mom” thing of trying to distract and mold her daughter into who and what she wants or needs her to be to reflect well on her, for me, it was more of an indication that Roslyn was attempting put on airs about her life that was too contrived in only a way that a magician says look at this hand, while all the while the ball was in the other hand.

I felt most drawn to the character of Daniel Ellis.  He’s a good cop who wants answers and closure for all Wayne Fisher’s victims’ families and also finding closure for himself.  Daniel’s mother was lost to him as a child and he is driven to determine if Wayne is the culprit in her disappearance.  I appreciate that he is not so single-minded that he is uncaring to Reni’s plight and to not be protective of her or her mental state when having to deal with a man she hasn’t seen in over 30 years.  You see his strength in his persistence and sensitivity.  You see his weakness in his little boy lost mentality when trying to find the truth about his mother.  However, no matter what, I felt at ease when he was involved, even though he was going through something, he was the rock, even though a little shaky sometimes.  Furthermore, it was as though you come to rely on his balanced approach and are you still can worry for him when the times get tough.

I do not want to say too much about the “twists”, as I do not want to spoil it for you.  I am curious if people had the same gut instinct I had about certain characters.  I appreciate how Frasier explored not only the mentality of a survivor, but the mentality of a family member of a victim and also how a serial killer’s family member/accomplice would react to the situation.  I think this was well done, though not quite as extensive of Red Dragon or Silence of the Lambs, but done well enough that there was realism in how the characters are portrayed and how to “read” their situations.  In fact, there was a scene where Reni was blamed for situation as a child,  where initially I read the situation one way and as the story progress, there was an “ah, maybe they meant this instead” moment.  I cannot reveal my alternative theory, as it would ruin one of the twists.  I also appreciate the odd dynamics of some rare serial killers that Frasier explored in this book.

With that being said, I recommend to anyone looking for a different and actually good mystery to give this a whirl.  While this did not garner a 5-cup rating from me, it is about a 4.5 and I am most definitely going to check out some of Frasier’s other works.

Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character(s):  Reni Fisher and Daniel Ellis.

Narration Review†: Scoring Great Book  The narration via Audible was actually pretty good as well.  Erin Bennett managed to increase my anxiety enough to keep pushing forward in listening when I thought I would stop to concentrate on other things.  Good job all around.

Lady Esbe listened to the Brilliance Audio edition of this selection, narrated by Erin Bennett.

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Elle Tea:

It seems like we’ve all been on the same fantasy kick for the past few months, some much heavier and more involved reading than others, so it was actually really refreshing to get a good ol’ fashioned murder-mystery this time around!

Can I just jump straight to how great it is to finally find a female author whose female protagonist was highly successful in her male-dominated former profession but never had to deny her femininity, become “one of the guys,”  or wait to be saved at any point by anyone?  Reni Fisher is broken, she has a lot of issues through which she must work and with which she must come to grips throughout the course of the novel, but she doesn’t moan and groan about her lot in life, she doesn’t wait to be saved, she makes no excuses, she uses logic and reason to make her decisions, and she doesn’t use her physical attributes to justify her purpose – she is tough as friggin’ nails, resilient as all get-out, and extremely self-reliant.  Yes, she is riddled with self-doubt and regularly questions herself and her own motives, but she is also scarred and shattered, held tentatively together by her sheer force of will.

In other words, this is one bitch you just do not want to fuck with.

“As you take in a surreal and unwelcoming landscape, you have to learn to feel in a different way.  You have to change your focus from near to far, like opening a camera’s depth of field.  You have to look at the sky and not at the ground.  And once your brain finally makes the change, you’ll see it, really see it, and understand that the world is made up of all kinds of beauty, even in places that at first seem harsh.  Places where the absence of trees and shade and things that are physically close allows the mind to expand, to see in a new and different way.”

Balance of a sort is achieved with Daniel Ellis, the detective initially assigned to deal with Reni’s estranged father, serial killer Benjamin Fisher.  Daniel is dealing with his own significant issues related to this case, but where Reni has sought to remove herself from the society from which she feels she does not – or should not be allowed to – belong, Daniel has allowed his need for resolution and answers to consume him.  He is driven to the point of distraction, and every choice he has made in his life since his own mother’s disappearance has been based solely off his need to know exactly what happened to her; he has sacrificed his own happiness, his own life, for the sake of his quest.  Together, he and Reni make an amazing team, but one which is unable to see its greatest weakness: that what consumes them can be used to destroy them… or, even more difficult for them to see, used to let them destroy themselves.

Abuse came wrapped in different packages, and indifference to a partner’s pain was one of them.

I don’t even want to mention too terribly much about the evil represented in this novel, since touching on it too much gives away a lot of the plot twists that occur later on in the story.  Suffice it to say that the evil is pervasive but tricky, and in the end, it is done so realistically that I couldn’t help but be impressed.  Authors and screenwriters tend to keep the world of fiction as stark and separate as possible: good guys are almost always completely and unmistakably good, while baddies are so atrocious and monstrous that it’s not hard at all to find them utterly despicable.  Frasier’s representation of evil in Find Me is undeniably wicked and incontrovertibly monstrous… but it also never loses its very human face.  How many times have you heard a serial killer, psychopath, sociopath, or other violent criminal described by their loved ones as “regular people” or had the people closest to them describe them as upstanding or gentle?  Ted Bundy was considered quite handsome by many and was reputedly also very witty and charming with a great sense of humor.  Charles Manson was a charismatic, soft-spoken poet and musician who was also considered quite attractive by many young women.  And his contemporaries, no matter how much they may have feared or hated him, all agreed that even Adolf Hitler was very well-spoken and possessed astonishing charisma.  True evil doesn’t walk around in all black proclaiming allegiance to the forces of darkness – it just goes about its business, and the only thing that stands out in retrospect is that no one and nothing was as important to it as itself and its own agenda, beliefs, and need for power or control over someone or something else.

And so it is with the evil of Find Me.  It blends in.  It has an excellent life.  It has excellent qualities.  It possesses kindness and thoughtfulness, it exhibits caring and nurturing and protectiveness, it – gasp – loves.  And it is also responsible for the violent deaths of numerous young women whose dreams and hopes and futures were callously snuffed out on a whim, whose parents and spouses and children were left for decades without answers, without knowing why or what happened.

There was no starting over for most people.  That was a misconception.  Unless a person’s memory could be erased, there were no fresh starts, only progression.

Find Me was fast-paced and moved along quite quickly, even for as brief a novel as it is.  It’s actually quite well-written – much better written than I’ve come to expect from crime novels, to be honest, given some of our rather lackluster forays into the genre, and while the plot twists and big reveals weren’t quite as impactful as I’d hoped – there was no big “OH MY GOD, I HAD NO IDEA!!!” moment – the slow, creeping certainty as you progress through the last half is a treat in and of itself.  Because you know… but you don’t know.  And then you know.  And you knew all along.  😉

Motherhood held a promise of fulfilled life, that promise dangling out there as the blessed event that would make a person whole, complete.  But in reality, it was ‘hole,’ not ‘whole.’  Like ‘punch a hole right through you until everything leaked out.’

All in all, I quite enjoyed Find Me and was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s actually the first of a new series.  I readily recommend it to anyone with an interest in mystery, suspense, or crime novels – or for those who, like me, don’t typically beeline for those genres but surely could use a well-written and entertaining break from both reality and your typical go-to genres.

Bad things were still happening in the world, and bad things had happened to both of them, but nature brought solace.

I do plan to read the sequel, Tell Me, which is currently planned for release in July 2021.

Elle Tea’s Favorite Character(s):  I could empathize most easily with Daniel Ellis and really gravitated more towards his character whenever he was on the page, so he’s clearly my favorite, but Reni Fisher is a very, very close second – she’s just straight-up unfuckwithable.

Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle edition of this selection.

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BillMo:

This book was such a quick read. It felt very fast paced but yet there were times when it wasn’t but I was enjoying the story so much that the slower time was still really interesting. There was great character development. I felt some sort of attachment to everyone in the book even if that attachment was annoyance.

A wasted life was a tragedy however you looked at it, and the idea of living behind these walls forever was a heavy thing to think about.

My favorite character was Daniel. I felt like he was like a knight on a quest without having to save a damsel because our main character Reni was able to care for herself. Reni was a close second. I really liked her and Daniel together. They really worked well and complemented each other. They both brought strengths with them and there was a good camaraderie where they could be completely honest with each other. Both being investigators/detectives of some sort it was really easy for them to understand what the other was thinking and why they needed to come to certain conclusions without there being any animosity.

People always left a little of themselves behind once they were gone.

Reni while broken was also able to push down the past and hold her head high. She was able to be present when she was needed. She put on her investigator face and helped. She tried her best to work through her issues and was putting her energy into creating pottery to live her life without having to constantly be reminded of what happened to her. She always seemed to find a reason to live. I really loved at the beginning when she thought about her dog and that she would need to keep going for him. What I also liked is that she did not need someone to swoop in and rescue her. She was able to be strong for herself and the others around her. I felt bad for her but she was a strong person even if she didn’t feel like it.

There was one obvious way out, one way to make everything stop, but she refused to go that route.

My least favorite character was Rosalind. She was not the mothering type and definitely could not relate to her daughter. She felt off and self centered. She felt like a mommy dearest type. She wanted to live for herself with her child as an accessory.

“Everybody should create something.”

Maurice seemed sweet yet I thought it was weird his involvement with Reni’s family from the beginning. I didn’t like one of the things that he had said about Reni to Rosalind. While not necessarily meant to be malicious it seemed an awful lot like blame being thrown on her from her childhood. I think someone should have reminded him that she didn’t ask to be born and the fact that her father had used her as bait to lure young women was not her fault.

Being dead was mysterious.  Someone was there and then they weren’t.  It seemed like something that shouldn’t happen to anybody, not even bugs.

There were a couple of twists and turns in this book that I found very interesting. I had a guess on one of them but I didn’t quite make the right assumption. The author left a couple of things up to the imagination which I like. Not too much so as not to have closure but just enough that when you put the book down you can sit and continue to think about it drawing some of your own conclusions.

Daniel didn’t know killers wore bow ties.

I would definitely read more from this author and recommend this book to others.

Like she’d told Daniel, children made their own reality.  That’s how they got through the darkness.

BillMo’s Favorite Character(s):  Daniel and Reni.

BillMo read the Amazon Kindle edition of this selection.

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†  Narration “cup” scores do not count towards the overall average score of the selection itself.

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