Book Review: The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day is an unforgettable, chilling novel about a young woman who recognizes the man who kidnapped her as a child, setting off a dangerous search for justice.

Lori Rader-Day’s Under a Dark Sky blew me away, so I had high hopes for The Lucky One—and she delivered. Alice Fine is going through the motions. She works for her father, Harrison Fine, at the Chicago-based construction business he owns with Big Jim King, a man she loves like an uncle.

It paid to be Harrison Fine’s daughter, to be granted the easiest job in the world and a salary she didn’t earn. So little was asked. She kept the filing, answered the phones, paid vendors and payroll. Her priority task, though, was keeping the construction dust at bay inside the trailer, where visiting clients and investors seemed to expect the pristine business environment of a bank.

It doesn’t help that she’s still smarting from a breakup with her fiancé, Matt, who also works for her dad and Big Jim, and she has to put up with Jim’s son, Jimmy, and his snide remarks about Alice’s role in the business. What really breaks through her ennui is crawling a website called the Doe Pages, where users attempt to match the unidentified deceased with the loved ones that miss them, an exercise that her father disapproves of.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket. Rnn. Rnn, rnn. She reached for it and turned it off. “Sorry.”

 

“Is that more of that John Doe nonsense? Don’t bring it in here.”

 

Her dad turned in the chair. From here she could see the scar at his jaw, a bad nick from a barber when he was young. Cataloguing the scratches and dents of people was a habit she’d picked up from her short time with the Doe’s, so she supposed she couldn’t help it anymore, bringing it into their lives. He thought it was morbid, and maybe he was right. Scars, tattoos. Crooked teeth, badly healed fractures. She was imagining the corpses they would become, the abandoned bones.

 

“I truly don’t understand why you got involved with that.” His back to her.

 

“You know why.” She’d been trying to explain it for two months. “Like, why did you want to become a police officer? You wanted to do something to help people—”

 

“Living people.”

 

“It’s for the living, Dad.”

She has a good reason for her interest. There’s not only the promise of the high that would result from a successful match but Alice herself was kidnapped as a baby and rescued by her then policeman father. He’s always been vague about the circumstances surrounding her kidnapping, encouraging her to move on. How can she, though? Only a few hazy snippets of memory remain from her ordeal, and she’s been having disturbing spells of near-fainting and blackouts.

When a new profile turns up on the Doe Pages, Alice gets a prickle of something familiar in the picture of Richard Miller, who has been missing for two weeks. An IRL meet-up with two other Doe members, Juby and Lillian, leads her to a dark trip down memory lane and a shocking revelation.

“That day?” Lillian said. “The kidnappers?”

 

Juby sat forward, ashen and concerned. This was what friendship was. It had to be. Alice felt the branches of it reaching toward her, a way out.

 

“I saw—” Her throat closed up, remembering the face, turned, the arms crossed. The missing man, gone two weeks, posted among this morning’s quarry on the site. “My kidnapper. I saw him this morning on the Pages. He’s a Doe.”

 

The black bird took flight, rushing to engulf the room, ad she started to fall.

Meanwhile, a young woman named Merrily Cruz contemplates a strange text message from a man who she knew briefly when he dated her mother. He’s always kept in touch via text, and he’s the only person she’s ever thought of as a father figure. Now, the police want to know what she knows about him.

Lately, Merrily’s been muddling through a mundane desk job that she supplements with money made from a site called ChatX, where men pay her to talk or watch her go about her day—but never anything else. She’s taken a different kind of comfort from a user called Searcher6, who drops a ton of cash into her account on a regular basis. When she meets Alice, who enlists Lillian and Juby to help her dig into Richard Miller’s life, the two women find themselves on a dark road to the truth where their fates are entwined, for better or worse.

Rader-Day consistently delivers stories with well-rounded, complex women at the core, and Lillian and Juby are quirky additions to her female-centric cast. The world of online sleuthing is fascinating, and care is taken to convey the dedication and efforts of the online community to bring closure to grieving families. It makes for an unusual basis for a crackerjack of a mystery, and readers will be hooked from the start.

Check out Lori Rader-Day’s 5 novel recommendations for learning crime writing!

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