Touch & Go

Touch & Go

by Lisa Gardner


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Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner

#1 New York Times bestseller Lisa Gardner, author of Catch Me and Love You More, returns with a heart-thumping thriller about what lurks behind the facade of a perfect family.

This is my family:  Vanished without a trace…

Justin and Libby Denbe have the kind of life that looks good in the pages of a glossy magazine. A beautiful fifteen-year old daughter, Ashlyn. A gorgeous brownstone on a tree-lined street in Boston’s elite Back Bay neighborhood. A great marriage, admired by friends and family.  A perfect life.

This is what I know:  Pain has a flavor…

When investigator Tessa Leoni arrives at the crime scene in the Denbes’ home, she finds scuff marks on the floor and Taser confetti in the foyer.  The family appears to have been abducted, with only a pile of their most personal possessions remaining behind.  No witnesses, no ransom demands, no motive.  Just an entire family, vanished without a trace.

This is what I fear:  The worst is yet to come…

Tessa knows better than anyone that even the most perfect façades can hide the darkest secrets.  Now she must race against the clock to uncover the Denbes’ innermost dealings, a complex tangle of friendships and betrayal, big business and small sacrifices.  Who would want to kidnap such a perfect little family?  And how far would such a person be willing to go?

This is the truth:  Love, safety, family…it is all touch and go.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524744441
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Series: Tessa Leoni Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 114,671
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Lisa Gardner is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. Her Detective D. D. Warren novels include Find HerFear Nothing, Catch MeLove You More, and The Neighbor, which won the International Thriller of the Year Award. She lives with her family in New England.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Catch Me:

“New York Times best-selling author Gardner always plays in the big leagues, but this scare-your-socks-off thriller is a grand slam, packed with enigmatic characters (some good, some crazily evil), expert procedural detail, and superb storytelling.”
Library Journal on Catch Me

“Gardner has become one of the best psychological thriller writers in the business. The compelling characters, the shocking plot and the realistic atmosphere of how police operate make this a "must read" for any suspense aficionado.”
— Associated Press on Catch Me

“The creepy meter is off the charts—though not sensationalized—with children the target of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse at the hands of both strangers and parents. And, somehow, miraculously without any contrivance, Gardner’s conclusion delivers a welcome glimmer of hope.”
Booklist (starred review) on Catch Me

“Gardner’s sixth Det. D.D. Warren thriller grabs from the get-go.”
People on Catch Me

“A solidly enjoyable thriller that will keep you on the edge of your chair as you turn the pages and listen for any strange noises around you.”
Huffington Post on Catch Me

“Irresistible.” — Kirkus on Catch Me

Reading Group Guide


This is my family: Vanished without a trace.

Justin and Libby Denbe have the kind of life that looks good in the pages of a glossy magazine. A beautiful fifteen–year old daughter, Ashlyn. A gorgeous brownstone on a tree–lined street in Boston’s elite Back Bay neighborhood. A great marriage, admired by friends and family. A perfect life.

This is what I know: Pain has a flavor.

When investigator Tessa Leoni arrives at the crime scene in the Denbes’ home, she finds scuff marks on the floor and Taser confetti in the foyer. The family appears to have been abducted, with only a pile of their most personal possessions remaining behind. No witnesses, no ransom demands, no motive. Just an entire family, vanished without a trace.

This is what I fear: The worst is yet to come.

Tessa knows better than anyone that even the most perfect façades can hide the darkest secrets. Now she must race against the clock to uncover the Denbes’ innermost dealings, a complex tangle of friendships and betrayal, big business and small sacrifices. Who would want to kidnap such a perfect little family? And how far would such a person be willing to go?

This is the truth: Love, safety, is all touch and go.


Lisa Gardner is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen previous novels. Her Detective D.D. Warren novels include Catch Me, Love You More, and the International Thriller of the Year award–winning novel, The Neighbor. Her FBI profiler novels include Say Goodbye, Gone, The Killing Hour, The Next Accident, and The Third Victim. She lives with her family in New England, where she is at work on her next novel.


How did you come up with the idea for Touch & Go?

I've always wanted to kidnap a family. Abduction is a time-honored suspense hook. Add to that the dynamics of a family in turmoil, and you have great possibilities for murder and mayhem. The issue was how to take such a classic set up and make it fresh. I mean, where would you take this family? Wilderness? It's been done. Basement? It's been done. Caverns, bunkers, bomb shelters, ditto. Then, one day I toured a mothballed prison, and my writer's mind went, GOT IT.

For your research for Touch & Go, you toured a recently built prison. What was that like?

Initially, I wasn't incredibly excited about touring a new prison facility. Having visited a number of occupied prisons, I thought an empty building would be pretty boring. But how many times do you get a chance to check out a maximum security facility before it opens, right? Turns out, empty prisons are creepy. The size and scale of everything is nearly mind-boggling. Sure, the cells are tiny, but the prison blocks themselves, the yawning hallways, the sprawling cafeterias, the endless echo of your own footsteps. Let's face it. I had to use the space for evil. I also learned there are a number of unopened new prisons, plus mothballed old prisons around the country. So I did a bit of digging, and yes, created my own fictional amalgamation. I'd never gotten to design my own prison before. It was kind of fun!

Touch & Go involves a number of characters, a whole family, the group of people who kidnap them, and a number of law enforcement personnel. Which characters were the hardest to write and which came easily? Do you have a favorite?

For Touch & Go I moved the action to my own backyard in northern New Hampshire. That meant I needed a New Hampshire detective. Thanks to the good graces of the county sheriff's department, I got to spend several days interviewing the sergeant overseeing the detectives unit. It was fascinating! After all these years of looking through D.D. Warren's Boston cop eyes, to take on a law enforcement world that is so rural and back country and crazy. As Sergeant Santuccio put it, north of Concord is a completely different playing field, where back up can be hours away, most officers have drawn their weapons at least once on the job, and no one has enough officers, investigative tools or time to get things done right, and yet that's exactly what they do again and again. Amazing! All this research went into the making of my new character, Sergeant Wyatt Foster, a cop who wants to be a carpenter, or a carpenter who wants to be a cop. I think he steals the show.

Libby Denbe is a very realistic and flawed character. Did you intend her to be seen as a hero or as partially deserving of her fate?

Libby is.raw. That's how I viewed her the entire time I was writing the novel. A smart, capable woman, astute enough to realize that she has screwed up her life, but just not emotionally ready to pick herself up and rebuild. She's hurting, still grieving for her fractured marriage, her unrealized dreams. Does she deserve what has happened to her? That's a good question for book clubs to debate!

How did you start writing?

I've always loved to read and I've always loved to write. That geek in the back of Latin class who was working on a short story instead of listening to her teacher's lecture-that was me! One summer, I decided to see if I could write a whole novel. I spent my days drafting a book and my nights working as a waitress. The results were one complete, albeit truly dreadful novel, plus shorter hair that I'd caught on fire twice serving an appetizer called flaming saganaki. Realizing my future in food service was limited, I focused on polishing my novel. The rest, as they say, is history.

How many books have you published so far?

Touch & Go will be my 28th novel.

Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule, editing and revision process, novel development, etc.? How long does it take you to write a story?

I like to write first thing in the morning. I'm always trying to get a certain number of scenes done each week. Sometimes that means writing a few hours a day. Sometimes that means writing ten hours a day. It depends on how fast the hamster is turning the wheel in my brain. I start with a general outline of each novel. The major plot points, key scenes, research that needs to be incorporated into the story, etc. I change a lot as I write, however, so the end novel may bear little resemblance to my starting idea. Sometimes characters take over. Sometimes I come up with a better idea for a plot point or a plot twist, so I reorient the story to make the new and improved concept work. It usually takes me six months to draft a novel, then three months to polish it.

How do you do your research?

Whenever possible, I try to interview professionals in the field. Personally, I don't have a law enforcement background, so I generally start with a call to some poor detective who has the misfortune to pick up his phone. I'm honestly touched and amazed by the thorough assistance I've received. I've interviewed FBI agents, ATF agents, state police, local police, corrections officers, etc., and every single one of them has taken significant time out of his or her day to answer my questions. They are very nice people doing very tough jobs.

Who are your role models? Which writers have influenced you the most?

I remember being twelve-years old and reading M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions. I was completely enthralled by that novel. The way she made the setting, history, and characters come so richly alive. From the beautiful romance to the gritty battle scenes, I thought reading that book was one of the most intense experiences I'd ever had. Of course, I was twelve. But I still love that novel. I reread it every few years, and every few years I'm enthralled all over again. I also enjoy Stephen King, Lee Child, Linwood Barclay, C.S. Harris, Tess Gerritsen and Karin Slaughter.

What has been your favorite question or comment by your fans?

I like it when fans tell me I've kept them awake all night, or made them forget to feed their kids dinner, or kept them from going into to work because they simply had to finish my book. It gives me a warm feeling inside. In all honesty, I'm really honored by how much people enjoy my novels and I love to hear from readers.

I'm an aspiring writer. Can you give me any advice on finding an agent or editor?

I recommend that any serious writer join a writers group. Three great organizations are Romance Writers of America and its suspense subchapter Kiss of Death; Mystery Writers of America; and International Thriller Writers. These groups offer local chapters where you can meet other aspiring writers as well as published authors. They also sponsor local conferences where you learn about the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and pitch your book ideas directly to agents and editors. All in all, a lot of support and services in return for fairly modest yearly dues.

What is the best and the worst thing about your job?

Best thing about being a writer is working in my pajamas, not to mention that chocolate is a "brain food" which explains most of my afternoons. Worst thing is deadlines. I wish I could just play with my characters forever. But sooner or later, all good writers must wrap up their stories and hand them over. D'oh!

Any surprising/hidden talents other than writing?

Actually, I think one of the lynchpins of my career is that this is it. See, I wrote my first book when I was 17 and sold it when I was 20. Normal authors don't do that, because they're busy exploring other talents. They're creative types flirting with drawing, playwriting, TV producing, home decorating, legal, medical or journalistic careers, etc., etc. Not me. I tried a little bit of everything, and failed each time. Can't draw, suck at poetry, have no patience for the corporate world. But somehow, I love stories. Give me a single line, and I can tell you the movie or book it's from. Freakish, but there you have it. I love books, books love me, and I've been publishing ever since.

If you weren't a writer, what would be your fantasy career?

I would love to be a criminologist! I don't have a strong enough science background to go into forensics, but it's the criminal mind that fascinates me the most anyway. I feel each of my novels explores the same basic, primordial question: What is the nature of evil? Interestingly enough, there isn't one answer. Hence, I've gotten to write fourteen novels, instead of just the first. Evil can be born (The Perfect Husband), evil can be made (Say Goodbye), evil can be both, a combination of nature and nature (Catch Me), and I'm sure there are even more answers to that question, meaning I have to get busy writing more books!


  • What was your initial impression of each character of the Denbe family at the beginning of the book? How did those impressions evolve or change throughout the novel?
  • In Touch & Go there are two “family units” throughout most of the book, the Denbes and their captors. Do you see any similarities between these two units? Do these groups mirror each other in any way?
  • The Denbe family faces some loaded issues throughout the novel. Do you think that the way they handle these issues in captivity is similar (albeit amplified) to how they would have handled them in their normal life?
  • What did you consider the most torturous aspect of the Denbes captivity? Physical? Mental?
  • Radar is a complex character. Do you think he redeems himself by helping the Denbes while in captivity?
  • Z is portrayed as a villain with a moral code. Does that make him admirable, or does the fact that he’s adamant about some rules — he always keeps his word —make it more heinous that he’s willing to cross other lines?
  • Do you blame Justin for his family’s situation—both their captivity and their broken nature—or do you see their predicament as a joint effort?
  • Children are a strong theme throughout the book. Tessa is concerned for her daughter as are the Denbes for their daughter, but sometimes the children seem to have more insight than the adults. Do you think Lisa Gardner did this on purpose?
  • Libby Denbe turns to prescription drug use as an escape from her husband’s infidelity. Because of this, is it possible to view Libby as a hero?
  • Many of the characters in this book appear innocent but turn out to be extremely flawed. Which characters (if any) were you surprised by when you found out their darkest secrets?
  • What do you think will happen with Tessa and Wyatt?
  • Customer Reviews

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    Touch & Go 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 321 reviews.
    JennMcLean More than 1 year ago
    This book solidified in my mind just what a terrific mystery writer Lisa Gardner is. Touch & Go is all about the mystery. It's the breathless chase, jam packed action and multi layered whodunit that catches the reader. It's the best of late night, under the covers reading into the wee hours of the morning kind of book. I strongly recommend it to all of you, it is a fantastic read. The very basics of the story is outlined on the back of the book and on Gardner's website, let me paraphrase:  An entire family disappeared without a trace, with no witnesses, no motive and no ransom demand. Justin and Libby Denbe have the kind of life that looks good in the pages of a glossy magazine, with their gorgeous brownstone on a tree-lined street, their seemingly perfect marriage and their beautiful fifteen-year old daughter, Ashlyn. But when the entire family disappears without a trace, PI Tessa Leoni must  discover their innermost secrets and race against the clock to try and rescue them before their perfect life goes up in smoke. In conclusion, let me say that this mystery kept me guessing up until the last dozen pages. This is really unusual for me. Mystery is my genre, I love to figure out what's going to happen significantly before it happens and I don't mean to sound boastful but I'm very good at it. It is so refreshing to read a whodunit and not actually know whodunit, lol. If you love mysteries like I do then go and buy Lisa Gardner's new book, you won't be  disappointed, I promise.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Lots of action and plot twists. A great read. I couldnt put it down. Tess is one of my favorite characters. I hope this is the start of a new series.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Lots of twists in this book!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Another winner by Lisa Gardner. She is such a talented writer. Her smooth style of writing and the sentences just seem to flow makes for an enjoyable read. Her characters are strong but not over powering and fit right into the storyline. A strong and surprise ending to a great story. Read this book, I strongly recommend it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Must read!!! Great book, didnt want to put it down!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    i thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoy her style of writing. There were so many turns and twists as to how the plot was unraveling that i am still thinking about this book after i have finished it. I am not going into detail about storyline as other reviewers do. I just want to say it is worth the time to relax and just read the book!
    Russ_Ilg More than 1 year ago
    Lisa Gardner has always been one of my top 5 authors and I hate the wait for her next novel to come out. Over the past 5-6 years she has really taking her writing to a level so high very few authors will ever reach it. I have always loved reading because you are taking out of your everyday life and transported to a place and time that you could never imange. Also during this process you are able to see that book through you eyes and may and often do inject your own ideas and thoughts about what happens in the novel. Lisa has completely taking that away from me with her increadible writing style that brings every page to real life so rich in theme and caraters there is nothing you can change because you a pulled so deep into the thriller you become part of it. All of the people are so full and real they are your best fiends, your next door neibhors, the bullys that scared the hell out of you at different stages of your life.  In a way she has one of the most twisted minds I have had the honor to know because there are so many sub-plots and twist that you could not even imange happing that you are thrown around like a rag doll on a roller coaster trying like heck to hold on for your life. After over 50 something years of constant reading there are very few books that I do not have a far idea of the out come. It is the same with Lisa novel's I get to about the last 1/4 of the book and have a super idea of how this will play out. The pace is so fast that I find I can not put the book down for a minute I have to know what is happing next. I just can not wait even though I have figured it out. Then all hell breaks out and my world and the novel explode in my hands as everything I believed is twisted so up-side down I just sit there and stare for a long time and finally say WOW where the hell did she come up with this it is so far beyond anything I had seen. I have to go back and read the whole novel a second time hoping to find the clues I missed if there were any and the out come is still the same. Lisa in Touch & Go takes you on one of he really great thriller rides you could hope for the twist and turns are mind blowing and the pace so fast you will not get any sleep to you finish this lasted in a long line of the best reading you can find. I hope that you will take a chance if you have not yet read one of her novels you will be hooked so hard that you will find a trove of books that you have not read yet that will open a whole new world to the thriller fan.  Her book tour will be starting soon and you should check her site and she if she is close by so you have the chance to meet and hear her talk about how and what she writes and the really huge amount of time that goes into making it so real
    RRPNC More than 1 year ago
    Wonderful Book!!! I Recommend Very Highly!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Loved it. I forget how much I enjoy her books until I start reading a new one. Great characters, great plot, great twists. I only wish she had another new book for me to dive into!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book is so good! If you get this book: BEWARE YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PUT IT DOWN!!! When i got this book i could not put it down because it was too good!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A liitle slow, but really got into the story. Great book!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Lisa Gardner has not lets us down again. Touch & Go is a great book. Keeps you fully engrossed. With a long line of family members working in the prison system. I could hear the gates slamming shut. I could see the guards sitting in the sally ports. Like i said very engrossing book. I also liked how even though Z, and Radar were the bad guys. They still did do something right by Libby and Ashlyn. Keep them coming lisa!!!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Excellent, suspenseful read with a great twist/ending.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I always enjoy Lisa Gardner's books. She has a talent with the written word and a terrific imagination to go with it. Her plots are always twisted and have you guessing then changing your mind all through the book. Buy the book, you will not be disappointed!
    bje_lakota More than 1 year ago
    This was a book full of twists and turns....very good.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Perfect story for a movie! Impossibly gripping every chapter brings more dark secrets of a perfect family and the evil is the person you least expect it to be!
    gumbyBF More than 1 year ago
    best ever , couldn't put it down . must read look forward to the next one !
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I have never felt compelled to write a book review until now, but felt I needed to say WOW. The author has really outdone herself with this one. Twists. Turns. It keeps you guessing - and reading - until the end. One of those books that you can't put down, and are sad there isn't more when you're done. Great read. Loved it. This was one of Lisa Gardners best.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Seemed a bit long but turned into such a pageturner
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A real page turner.  I could not put it down!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am a diehard Lisa Gardner fan-This to me is one of her best ever! I could not put this one down-lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing and turning pages.You won't know what really happens until the end-I love how Lisa works her previous people into each of her book-you get to follow their lives as well. If you love Lisa you won't be sorry you picked up this book .the only thing to worry about is putting it down..
    TravelerReader1 More than 1 year ago
    Great book, I was taken in from the start and couldn't put it down. This is the first book written by Lisa Gardner I had read and won't be the last one. Suspenseful and exciting and twists and turns!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Love the fact that she brought D.D. Warren back in this one fantastic! Amazing suspense!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    One of Lisa Gardner's best. Lots of twists and turns. A real page turner.