One Step Too Far is a thriller set in the Wyoming wilderness that follows a group of eight hikers trying to find a missing person. Released in 2022 and written by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, the novel is Book 2 in the Frankie Elkin series.
One Step Too Far has nearly 9,000 ratings on Amazon with an outstanding 4.6 (out of 5) review score. Top reviewers loved Gardner’s storytelling and Frankie’s character, while the negative reviews criticized the slower pacing and lack of action.
Frankie is a unique protagonist. A recovering alcoholic, Frankie is your average, middle-aged woman who spends her life searching for missing people who are forgotten by the police, the public, and the media. Her efforts are voluntary, forcing her to live the life of a drifter, but she has a talent for it.
In One Step Too Far, Frankie ventures well outside her comfort zone and into the great outdoors to help a grieving father find his missing son, Timothy, who disappeared on the first night of a bachelor party camping trip five years ago. His four best friends returned from the trip alive, but Tim disappeared without a trace.
When Tim’s father Martin organizes another annual search, Frankie joins the group of eight despite lacking basic survival skills. The group also includes three of Tim’s four best friends, a legendary local survivalist named Nemeth, a woman named Luciana with her cadaver dog Daisy, and a cryptozoologist named Bob of the North American Bigfoot Society.
The pace of the book is as deliberate as the hike to their destination at Devil’s Canyon, but it allows us to watch how Frankie operates. She’s patient and inquisitive. She tries to find out what makes each member of the search party tick. That takes time. So, while One Step Too Far is not an action-packed thriller in the traditional sense, it still manages to ramp up the suspense in between the occasional action scenes by adeptly using slow reveals throughout the narrative.
Is this a Bigfoot book? Maybe. Maybe not. Bigfoot does provide the one hope for Tim’s father Martin, who promised his dying wife he’d bring their boy home. In a rare moment of vulnerability, Martin tells Frankie why he’s working with Bob of the North American Bigfoot Society.
“I read about another case they were working on. A young man who went missing in the mountains of Washington. The Bigfoot hunters are particularly focused on that area. … One of the guys gave an interview saying they didn’t know what had happened to the young man, but they could see him taken in by a family of Sasquatch and living happily ever after. I am a carpenter by trade. A man who works with his hands believes in things that I can feel and touch. But that quote …
“When you lose your child, and I mean lose your son, as in you have no idea where he is, no idea what happened to him, what his last moments might have been like, you need some kind of hope to get you through the day before the terror finds you again at night. I never even thought about Bigfoot five years ago. Now, I want nothing more than to believe.”
While Martin’s hope is driving the expedition, Frankie’s methodical conversations with each member of the group are unearthing secrets that deepen the mystery of Tim’s disappearance and what happened the night of the bachelor party. The extended climax turns on a couple of shocking twists but ultimately ends with Frankie’s tenacity solving the mystery. One Step Too Far is an interesting read for hikers and Bigfoot enthusiasts who enjoy a more cerebral thriller rather than a violent creature feature.
NEXT UP: Chapter Forty-Six: Kiamichi Beast Expedition 2. I review the 2022 documentary by Master Hughes.