Review #3: Abducted (Lizzy Gardner Series #1) by T.R. Ragan

Abducted is the first in the Lizzy Gardner series by self-published author, T.R. Ragan. When Lizzy Gardner was 15, she was kidnapped by serial killer “Spiderman,” and held hostage for weeks. Through her own wits and determination she managed to escape, the only girl to ever survive Spiderman, and soon became known as “the one who got away.” Battling some major psychological demons, she started her own PI practice investigating non-dramatic cases (workman’s comp!). On her downtime, she holds seminars teaching young girls how to defend themselves against a stranger’s attack (don’t get me started on the fact that most attacks against women are done by people they know, but okay!). Lizzy is beginning to feel some relief, as a man who confessed to being Spiderman was recently apprehended and found guilty of the crimes. Her relief is short-lived, however, as a teen girl’s body is found along with a note addressed to her… is the Spiderman back and after Lizzy?

Overall, this book was a fairly decent thriller. It’s not the deepest book out, and the writing is somewhat run of the mill, but it was good enough for me to want to read the second in the series (that review will be coming soon). I was a bit annoyed when, throughout the book, certain lines/points were repeated almost words for word. It is either quite pandering to the reader to assume we’ve forgotten key plot points, or lazy editing. Either way, it drove me a bit nuts.

Lizzy is a damaged character, obviously, but I didn’t find her to be particularly layered or complex. She hits every note you’d expect to see in a book-traumatized person (e.g., nightmares, distrustful) which makes for a somewhat clichéd character, but overall, as a protagonist she’s fine. The secondary characters are also not as deeply written as they could have been. There’s her unpaid, psychology major, assistant who is a real “gumshoe” type with her own personal demons. Lizzy’s sister and niece are boring and stupid to the max. Lizzy’s high school boyfriend Jared, is now (of course) an FBI agent who just so happens to be called in to work the newly renewed Spiderman case. When he and Lizzy see each other for the first time in a decade… well, you can guess what happens. Then there’s the original FBI agent on the case, who is alternately caring and an asshole (an attempt to give him depth with a cancer diagnosis falls flat). Finally, there is Hayley, the spunky, abused teen from a bad home, who inexplicably decides to “bait” herself to the Spiderman. Oh, I guess the Spiderman himself is the last major character. Well, I barely remember much about him or his motivations, which certainly makes him minimally scary, doesn’t it?

I realize I sound like I disliked this book, but really, it was serviceable and there is room for Ragan to grow as an author. She has some good ideas and can execute them well at points, but she is relatively new at the game, and I suspect that she will continue to improve and refine her writing style and who she is as an author.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about these covers. I get that, as a self-published author, most of Ragan’s sales will probably be online, but man, these covers are BAD and will do nothing to draw in a bookstore buyer. The first looks straight out of 1985 and the second is so bland. I hope that Ragan will find a new cover artist in the future.

Finally, I just want to mention that I thoroughly respect the work of self-published authors. They have a difficult road to face, but I think it’s pretty cool there are many avenues out there for them to get their work out to readers. Ragan herself wrote a pretty awesome post on her website on how to self-publish. That link is here.

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