RoadTrip America

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The Neighbor, by Lisa Gardner (Read by Emily Janice Card)

This is a strange and very compelling story that will hold your interest as you try to understand the behavior of a married couple, Jason and Sandra Jones. They live in a modest house in south Boston with a precocious four-year-old daughter, Clarissa, who they call Ree. Sandra was five months pregnant when she married thirty-year-old Jason, and during the four years since their marriage, Jason and Sandra have not had sex. Jason works nights as a reporter for the local newspaper and Sandra teaches sixth grade at the junior high school. They don't socialize, and their child has never been left alone with anyone other than Jason or Sandra. One night Jason comes home and Sandra is gone. He finds Ree sleeping in her room, but no Sandra. When the police are notified, they are baffled by Jason's behavior. He is quiet and doesn't demand that they get search parties to find his missing wife. The police find it strange that both front and back doors to the house are heavy steel doors with slide-through bolts. Every window has a wooden dowel to hold it from being slid open. Jason is the main suspect since there is no evidence of a break-in. The police find it strange that the wife's car is in the driveway and her purse and keys are on a side table in the hall. Nothing is missing, according to Jason. There is a broken lamp next to the bed, but no signs that it was used as a weapon. There is a blanket from the master bedroom that is missing. Other than that, nothing seems out of order.

The police discover that a registered sex offender lives five houses away from the Jones' house. Having served time for having sex with a consenting fourteen-year-old girl when he was nineteen and having been clean for the last two years, he is not considered a serious suspect by the police, but he is possibly involved. Sandra's father, a prominent judge, shows up demanding custody of the four-year-old child, since he says that Jason is not fit to take care of Ree. Although he' s a respected Atlanta judge, questions arise about his past relationship with Sandra, so he also comes under scrutiny. From this point on, Gardiner fills her story with twists and turns as the characters other than Jason give their versions of the events. The listener will be in a constant state of suspense and surprise, trying to find out what happened to Sandra. In the end, even the most astute listener will be as stunned as the police with the shocking conclusion.

The final outcome is well worth waiting for, as it gives a vital message to all. The abnormal behavior of Jason can be understood when his background is finally exposed. The Neighbor is an appropriate title for this book, because it reminds us that the people who live next door probably have secrets which would surprise us, if we knew them. I find this a story worth reading as it tells the emotional conditions people must endure to survive.

John Mormon

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