Near the start of Edgar-finalist Gardiner's solid follow-up to The Dirty Secrets Club, San Francisco forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett examines Ian Kanan, a distressed airline passenger who turns out to be suffering from anterograde amnesia, which makes it impossible for him to form new memories. Kanan, who's sure that his family has been kidnapped and he's been poisoned, disappears from the hospital before Beckett can learn more. When she starts digging into his background, Beckett discovers not only that Kanan was a security consultant for Chira-Sayf, a nanotechnology company, but that he may have been exposed to Slick, an experimental bioweapon. Along with her SFPD contact, Lt. Amy Tang, and para-jumper boyfriend, Gabe Quintana, Beckett races to find Kanan before the people he's pursuing unleash Slick on San Francisco. Gardiner more than compensates for the sometimes implausible plot with her effective use of Kanan's amnesia and her heroine's resourcefulness. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Memory Collector (Jo Beckett Series #2)by Meg Gardiner
Forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett is called to the scene of a plane inbound from London to San Francisco. A passenger is behaving erratically, offering Jo cryptic clues from a shattered past: something about a missing wife and son...a secret partnership/b>
An unforgettable new thriller from the author hailed by Stephen King as "the next suspense superstar"
Forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett is called to the scene of a plane inbound from London to San Francisco. A passenger is behaving erratically, offering Jo cryptic clues from a shattered past: something about a missing wife and son...a secret partnership gone horribly wrong...and, most alarming, a deadly biological agent that no one can stop.
Jo Beckett, the forensic psychiatrist in the excellent Dirty Secrets Club, is back, only this time she is evaluating suspects instead of doing "psychological autopsies." She is called to the airport to determine whether Ian Kanan should be arrested or hospitalized for acting erratically on his return flight from a business trip to South Africa. Apparently Kanan picked up a rare disease called "anterograde amnesia," causing him to forget all new information every five minutes, including the fact that he's carrying "Slick," a highly volatile explosive with devastating side effects. In addition to the rare disease that appears to be spreading and taking lives, this thriller encompasses just about every device used in the genre: a race against the clock with a kidnapped family in peril, high-tech super-deadly explosives, international terrorists, high-speed car chases, and a couple of strong women who can make jokes while outrunning a homicidal maniac. The complete lack of character development and terse writing style makes for a fast-paced story, but not necessarily a good one. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/1/09.]
Read an Excerpt
Later, Seth remembered cold air and red light streaking the westernsky, music in his ears, and his own hard breathing. Later, heunderstood, and the understanding stuck in his memory like a thorn.He never heard them coming.
The trail through Golden Gate Park was rutted and he was ridingwith his earphones in, tunes cranked high. His guitar was in abackpack case slung around his shoulders. Crimson sunset strobedbetween the eucalyptus trees. When he reached Kennedy Drive, hejumped the curb, crossed the road, and aimed his bike into the shortcutthrough the woods. He was a quarter mile from home.
He was late. But if he rode hard he could still beat his mom backfrom work. His breath frosted the air. The music thrashed in his ears.He barely heard Whiskey bark.
He glanced over his shoulder. The dog was at a standstill on thepath fifty yards behind him. Seth skidded to a stop. He pushed hisglasses up his nose, but the trail lay in shadow and he couldn’t seewhat Whiskey was barking at.
He whistled and waved. “Hey, doofus.”
Whiskey was a big dog, part Irish setter, part golden retriever. Partsofa cushion. And all heart, every dumb inch of him. His hackles wereup.
If Whiskey ran off, chasing him down could take forever. Thenhe’d totally be late. But Seth was fifteen—in a month, anyhow—andWhiskey was his responsibility.
He whistled again. Whiskey glanced at him. He could swear thedog looked worried.
He pulled out his earbuds. “Whiskey, come.”
The dog stayed, fur bristling. Seth heard traffic outside the parkon Fulton. He heard birds singing in the trees and a jet overhead. Heheard Whiskey growl.
Seth rode toward him. It might be a raccoon, and even in San Franciscoraccoons could have rabies.
He stopped beside the dog. “Hey, boy. Stay.”
He heard a car door close, back on Kennedy. Boots crunched onleaves and pine needles. Whiskey’s ears went back. Seth grabbed hiscollar. Tension was vibrating from the dog.
The birds weren’t singing anymore.
“Come. Heel,” Seth said, and turned around.
A man stood on the trail in the dusk, ten feet ahead. Surprise fizzedthrough Seth all the way to his hair.
The man’s shaved head ran straight down to his shoulders withoutstopping for a neck. His arms hung by his sides. He looked like a ballparkfrank that had been boiled all day.
He nodded at Whiskey. “He’s a handful. What’s his name?”
The sun was almost down. Why was the guy wearing sunglasses?
He snapped his fingers. “Here, dog.”
Seth held Whiskey’s collar. The fizzing covered his skin, and he hada bright, thumping feeling behind his eyes. What was this guy after?
The hot dog in shades tilted his head. “I said, what’s his name,Seth?”
The brightness pounded behind Seth’s eyes. The man knew whohe was.
Of course the man did. Seth was lanky and had coppery hair thatstuck up like straw and pale blue eyes that could shoot people thelook, the one his mom called the thousand-yard stare. Just my luck,she said sometimes. You look exactly like your father.
Seth gripped Whiskey’s collar. Just his luck. His bad luck. His bad,bad, oh, shit—this had to do with his dad.
What was this guy after? This guy was after him.
He took off. He jumped on the pedals and bolted like a greyhound,ninety degrees away from Oscar Mayer Man, riding like a maniac intothe woods.
“Whiskey, come,” he yelled.
There was no trail, just bumpy ground covered with brown grassand dead leaves. He gripped the handlebars and pedaled harder thanhe thought his legs could turn. His glasses bounced on his nose. Hisearphones swung down and bucked against the bike. Tunes dribbledout.
Behind him, Whiskey barked. Seth felt too scared to look back.Oscar Mayer wasn’t the only one. Whiskey had been growling atsomething on Kennedy Drive, and Seth had heard a car door slamand footsteps on the trail. His throat felt like it had an apple jammeddown it. Two guys were here to get him.
He had to warn his mom.
His cell phone was in his jeans pocket, but riding like a psycho,he couldn’t reach it. A moan rose in his throat. He fought it down.He couldn’t cry. The trees had darkened from green to black. Ahead,a hundred yards away through the branches, he glimpsed headlightspassing on Fulton Street.
He had to get home. His mom—God, what if these guys went afterher, too?
Ninety yards to Fulton. Headlights glared white through the trees.His hands were cramping on the handlebars, his legs burning. Theguitar bounced in the backpack case. The bike slammed over a rut.
Seth held it, straightened out, and kept going. There’d be people onFulton. The headlights drew closer.
Behind him, Whiskey yelped.
He looked over his shoulder. His dog was bounding after himthrough the brush. Behind the dog came Oscar Mayer.
“Whiskey, run,” Seth yelled.
His legs felt shaky but he dug in again, flying toward the street pastan old oak tree.
The second man was waiting behind it.
He shot out an arm as Seth rode past and grabbed the neck of theguitar, yanking him off the bike. Seth’s feet swung up and his armsflew wide. He crashed to the ground on top of the guitar. Heard thestrings sproing and the body crack. The breath slammed out of him.The man grabbed him. This guy was square with a gray buzz cut,like a concrete brick. He was old but covered with acne. He draggedSeth to his feet.
Seth kicked at him. “Let me go.”
It came out as a scream. Seth swung a fist and kicked for the man’sknees.
“Jesus.” The man twisted Seth’s arm behind his back.
A sharp pain wracked his elbow. The man shoved him toward thebushes.
Then, in a rush of muscle and power and furious barking, Whiskeyattacked. The dog lunged and sank his teeth into the man’s wrist. Thebrick reeled and let go of Seth.
Seth staggered, glasses crooked, through the trees toward FultonStreet. Behind him he heard crazy barking. The brick shouting. A horribleyelp from Whiskey.
Forty yards to Fulton. Whiskey’s whimper fell to a moan of pain.Seth kept running. Twenty yards. He could hear his dad: Don’t swervefor an animal. If it’s between you and a dog in the road, you need tobe the one who lives.
But this was happening because of his dad, and he had to get outof it or he and his mother were going to be in a whole huge world ofpain and fear.
Fifteen yards. He could see the street, cars, the sidewalk, the crossstreet that led off Fulton. His street—his house was a block up theroad. He squinted, trying to tell if his mom’s car was parked there.
Somebody was standing on the driveway. A woman—he saw palelegs in a skirt. Long light-brown hair.
His strength flooded back in a vivid burst. “Mom!”Whiskey wailed.
Seth faltered. Whiskey had rescued him—he couldn’t abandon thedog. He spotted a rock, picked it up, and turned around.
Oscar Mayer was barreling straight at him. Before Seth could jumpthe man hunkered low, like a linebacker, and tackled him.
Seth hit the ground so hard his glasses flew, but he kept hold of therock. He bashed it against the guy’s head.
“Let me fucking go.”
The man grabbed Seth’s hand and pinned it to the ground. Thebrick ran up, jerking Whiskey by the collar.
“Really is his old man’s kid, isn’t he?” The brick turned his arm,looking at a bloody bite. “Bastard mutt.”
Seth threw his head back. “Mom!”
Oscar Mayer grabbed his face and tried to force his mouth openand shove a handkerchief inside to gag him. The man had blood onhis forehead where the rock had hit. Seth locked his jaw. Whiskeysurged, trying to reach him. The man pinched his nose. Seth kicked,trying to get the guy’s knees, but next to the human hot dog he wasjust a stick insect. He opened his mouth to gulp a breath and got thehandkerchief jammed past his teeth.
The man grabbed Seth’s hair, leaned down, and put his lips next toSeth’s ear. “I’ll hurt you.” His voice, so close, made wet noises againstSeth’s skin. “But first I’ll hurt your dog. With a screwdriver.”
All Seth’s strength turned to water. A dark weight pressed on hischest, and tears rose uncontrollably toward his eyes.
Oscar Mayer smiled behind his shades. His gums looked pink andglistening. He turned to the brick. “Call.”
Without his glasses the twilight looked blurred and murky. Sethheard the brick on a cell phone.
Oscar Mayer wiped the back of his forearm over his brow. “Youknow what this is about?”
On the street, a black van screeched to a stop. A man hopped out andstrutted toward the woods. He was a skinny white guy, but he looked likea gangbanger. Or like one he’d seen on MTV. Blue bandanna tied aroundhis forehead, chain hanging from the pocket of his saggy jeans, shouldersrolling. He was like the Mickey Mouse Club version of a lowrider.
Oscar Mayer eyed him like he was dressed for a parade. Markinghim down as a moron. A scary one.
Then he turned his hot dog head back to Seth. “You know whereyour dad is? What he’s doing?”
Seth clamped his mouth shut.
“You got a choice. You want to get hurt, or disappear?” He scannedSeth’s face and let his wet mouth smile again. “Didn’t think so.” Helooked at the other men. “Get him up.”
Meet the Author
Meg Gardiner previously practiced law and taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Originally from Southern California, she now lives with her family in London. The Dirty Secrets Club is her first novel published in the U.S. She will be promoting The Dirty Secrets Club on a national tour this summer.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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At a San Francisco Airport, forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett examines an upset airline passenger Ian Kanan who has just returned from Africa. She concludes he apparently suffers from a form of short term amnesia that does not allow him to make new memories more than five minutes old though his pre-flight remain okay. Despondent and hyper with anxiety Ian is rushed to the hospital. Unable to calm down, he insists his family was abducted and in trouble, and someone poisoned him. He soon vanishes from the hospital to go after those he feels harmed him and his family.------------ Beckett investigates Kanan's background and learns he was a security consultant for Chira-Sayf, a nanotechnology company. She finds out he also may be the accidental victim of an experimental biological weapon Slick. She fears those who Kanan referred to plan to gracefully emit Slick on the city. With her boyfriend Gabe Quintana and SFPD Police Lieutenant Amy Tang accompanying her, Beckett hopes to prevent a terrorist tragedy as the disease is spreading.--------------- The second Beckett thriller (see THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB) is an action-packed, fast-paced tale in which the audience will not have time to breath. The story line starts at hyperspeed and never slows down so that readers will want to join the ride (wear seat belts). However, the frantic speed keeps character development to a thin level, but no one will care as the enjoyable adventures are faster than the speed of light.--------- Harriet Klausner
A forensic psychiatrist, Jo Beckett usually only works with psychological autopsy, but as a consultant for the San Francisco Police Department, she is on call. When she got a call to do a psychological evaluation of a passenger on a flight from London, Ian Kanan, she found a man who had no short term memory. He had tried to open the emergency exit during landing and then refused to leave the plane. A catscan and MRI of his brain reveal black lines that criss cross the medial temporal lobe, that part of the brain that translates short term memory into long term memory. After she tells him about his condition and how to cope with it, writing himself notes, he disappears. By the time the victim of an accidental pool electrocution is found to have been on the plane with Ian, Jo and her police lieutenant friend Amy Tang know everyone could be in trouble. Hopefully this is a medical science fiction mystery and thriller because, if what the novel describes can happen, the world would be a considerably more dangerous place than it already is. The Memory Collector is truly frightening on many levels, but most of all, it's a great read with sympathetic characters and a tragic hero who loved his family. As you read, you pull for Ian, his wife Misty, his son Sean, and even their dog Whisky. The villains are truly greedy and detestable, and the main characters, Jo and her boyfriend Gabe Quintana admirable and brave.
Meg Gardiner impresses me more and more with each and every book I read by her. Where many authors manage to either write a single series based on one main character, or several unrelated stories; Meg Gardiner is writing at least three series'. The Memory Collector is the second book in the Jo Beckett series, which is every bit as good as her Evan Delany series. Jo Beckett is a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in forensic autopsies as a consultant to the San Francisco Police. That is, she helps them by reconstructing how a person lived to determine why they died. This time around though, she is pulled into using her special skills on a living suspect who's been exposed to something that seems to render his brain unable to form new memories. That is, his mind clears of all memory post exposure every few minutes. And he has a list of names on his arm followed by "Saturday, they die". As I have come to expect from Meg Gardiner, the story is meticulously researched and told in a way that draws the reader in for every twist and turn; and there are plenty of twists and turns. The heroes are just good enough to not get everything right, but not so flawed they can't do what needs to be done. The villains, conversely, are not so evil that we even know who they really are all the time. I like that the line between good-guy and bad is not always so clear, and the really bad guys have a way to make the good do things they wouldn't otherwise. In short, it's real and totally believable. I highly recommend The Memory Collector, with the caveat that you do need to read The Dirty Secrets Club first to fully get the back story.
I have read all of Meg Gardiner's books and couldn't wait to get this one. I thought it was horrible. Not at all like her writing. The story was hard to follow and the book was so slow and boring I thought about leaving it, but kept waiting for it to get better. I would not recommend this book to anyone !