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Life Sentences    by Alice Blanchard order for
Life Sentences
by Alice Blanchard
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

When Daisy Hubbard’s younger sister Anna goes missing, Daisy is more annoyed than troubled. Daisy is a genetic researcher under the tutelage of a quirky yet intriguing Nobel prize winner at a prestigious Boston lab, and she just does not have a lot of time to worry about Anna. Daisy is busy experimenting, in hopes of finding a cure for a rare genetic brain disease that claimed the life of Daisy's and Anna's younger brother many years before.

Having eschewed hobbies, a love life, and other personal interests in favor of her research, Daisy is miffed that she must halt her work in order to look for her sister, and once again get involved in the drama surrounding Anna's life. While Daisy loves Anna and the two sisters had a close bond during childhood (before Anna's mental illness bloomed via a psychotic break in her early teens), the fact remains that Anna is a mentally unstable woman who suffers from schizophrenia, and her temporary disappearances have sadly become commonplace over time. At their mother's urging, Daisy returns home to Vermont and ultimately agrees to go out to California (where Anna lives) to look into her sister's disappearance.

As Daisy begrudgingly arrives in Los Angeles (the author does a masterful job describing its heat wave compared to Boston's bitter cold), she meets handsome, yet somewhat bedraggled, detective Jack Makowski. Jack is heading up the investigation of Anna's disappearance, and it quickly becomes apparent to Daisy that Anna might be in grave danger, if she is even still alive. Jack has been looking into the disappearances of a few different people in the immediate area (De Campo Beach) and it seems that Anna's may be linked to the other cases. Strangely, Anna seems to have been deeply emeshed in following Daisy's genetic research. As Daisy teams up with Jack, they begin to track down a serial killer, linked to these missing people.

Daisy must use all of her mental faculties and bravery as she helps Jack pursue the killer, while attempting to find out why her sister was following her research and what this might have to do with her disappearance. Also on Daisy's mind are difficult childhood memories, a burgeoning romance with Jack who already has three failed marriages under his belt, her kind yet elusive mother, concerns about being away from her work, and her puzzling relationship with her supervisor Truett. I thoroughly enjoyed Blanchard's The Breathtaker. Once again in Life Sentences, she does a masterful job of crafting a compelling, engrossing thriller that I highly recommend to mystery fans.

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