The Memory Collector (Jo Beckett Series #2)

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"Forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett's specialty is the psychological autopsy - an investigation into a person's life to determine whether a death was natural, accidental, suicide, or homicide. She calls herself a deadshrinker instead of a headshrinker: The silence of her "patients" is a key part of the job's attraction. When Jo is asked to do a psychological autopsy on a living person - one with a suspect memory who can't be trusted to participate in his own medical care - she knows all her skills will be put to the test." Jo is called to the scene ...

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The Memory Collector (Jo Beckett Series #2)

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Overview

"Forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett's specialty is the psychological autopsy - an investigation into a person's life to determine whether a death was natural, accidental, suicide, or homicide. She calls herself a deadshrinker instead of a headshrinker: The silence of her "patients" is a key part of the job's attraction. When Jo is asked to do a psychological autopsy on a living person - one with a suspect memory who can't be trusted to participate in his own medical care - she knows all her skills will be put to the test." Jo is called to the scene of an aircraft inbound from London to help deal with a passenger who is behaving erratically. She figures out that he's got anteretrograde amnesia, and can't form new memories. As his thoughts drift away like tendrils of smoke, Jo finds herself racing to save a patient who can walk and talk yet can't help her figure out just what happened to him. For every cryptic clue he is able to drag up from his memory, Jo has to sift through a dozen nonsensical statements. Suddenly a string of clues arises - something to do with a superdeadly biological agent code-named "Slick," missing people, and a secret partnership gone horribly wrong. Jo realizes her patient's addled mind may hold the key to preventing something terrible from happening in her beloved San Francisco. In order to prevent it, she will have to get deeper into the life of a patient than she ever has before, hoping the truth emerges from the fog of his mind in time to save her city - and herself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.
Library Journal

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.]
—Stacy Alesi

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525950752
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/11/2009
  • Series: Jo Beckett Series , #2
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 9.32 (w) x 6.28 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Meg Gardiner
Meg Gardiner is the author of The Memory Collector, The Dirty Secrets Club, and five novels in the Evan Delaney series, including China Lake which recently won the Edgar Award for best paperback original. She lives with her family near London.
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Read an Excerpt

Later, Seth remembered cold air and red light streaking the western sky, music in his ears, and his own hard breathing. Later, he understood, 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 riding with his earphones in, tunes cranked high. His guitar was in a backpack case slung around his shoulders. Crimson sunset strobed between the eucalyptus trees. When he reached Kennedy Drive, he jumped the curb, crossed the road, and aimed his bike into the shortcut through the woods. He was a quarter mile from home.

He was late. But if he rode hard he could still beat his mom back from 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 the path fifty yards behind him. Seth skidded to a stop. He pushed his glasses up his nose, but the trail lay in shadow and he couldn’t see what Whiskey was barking at.

He whistled and waved. “Hey, doofus.”

Whiskey was a big dog, part Irish setter, part golden retriever. Part sofa cushion. And all heart, every dumb inch of him. His hackles were up.

If Whiskey ran off, chasing him down could take forever. Then he’d totally be late. But Seth was fifteen—in a month, anyhow—and Whiskey was his responsibility.

He whistled again. Whiskey glanced at him. He could swear the dog looked worried.

He pulled out his earbuds. “Whiskey, come.”

The dog stayed, fur bristling. Seth heard traffic outside the park on Fulton. He heard birds singing in the trees and a jet overhead. He heard Whiskey growl.

Seth rode toward him. It might be a raccoon, and even in San Francisco raccoons could have rabies.

He stopped beside the dog. “Hey, boy. Stay.”

He heard a car door close, back on Kennedy. Boots crunched on leaves and pine needles. Whiskey’s ears went back. Seth grabbed his collar. 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 fizzed through Seth all the way to his hair.

The man’s shaved head ran straight down to his shoulders without stopping for a neck. His arms hung by his sides. He looked like a ballpark frank 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 had a 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 who he was.

Of course the man did. Seth was lanky and had coppery hair that stuck up like straw and pale blue eyes that could shoot people the look, 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 into the woods.

“Whiskey, come,” he yelled.

There was no trail, just bumpy ground covered with brown grass and dead leaves. He gripped the handlebars and pedaled harder than he thought his legs could turn. His glasses bounced on his nose. His earphones swung down and bucked against the bike. Tunes dribbled out.

Behind him, Whiskey barked. Seth felt too scared to look back. Oscar Mayer wasn’t the only one. Whiskey had been growling at something on Kennedy Drive, and Seth had heard a car door slam and footsteps on the trail. His throat felt like it had an apple jammed down 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 headlights passing on Fulton Street.

He had to get home. His mom—God, what if these guys went after her, too?

Ninety yards to Fulton. Headlights glared white through the trees. His hands were cramping on the handlebars, his legs burning. The guitar bounced in the backpack case. The bike slammed over a rut.

Seth held it, straightened out, and kept going. There’d be people on Fulton. The headlights drew closer.

Behind him, Whiskey yelped.

He looked over his shoulder. His dog was bounding after him through 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 past an old oak tree.

The second man was waiting behind it.

He shot out an arm as Seth rode past and grabbed the neck of the guitar, yanking him off the bike. Seth’s feet swung up and his arms flew wide. He crashed to the ground on top of the guitar. Heard the strings 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 dragged Seth 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’s knees.

“Jesus.” The man twisted Seth’s arm behind his back.

A sharp pain wracked his elbow. The man shoved him toward the bushes.

Then, in a rush of muscle and power and furious barking, Whiskey attacked. The dog lunged and sank his teeth into the man’s wrist. The brick reeled and let go of Seth.

Seth staggered, glasses crooked, through the trees toward Fulton Street. Behind him he heard crazy barking. The brick shouting. A horrible yelp 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 swerve for an animal. If it’s between you and a dog in the road, you need to be the one who lives.

But this was happening because of his dad, and he had to get out of it or he and his mother were going to be in a whole huge world of pain and fear.

Fifteen yards. He could see the street, cars, the sidewalk, the cross street that led off Fulton. His street—his house was a block up the road. He squinted, trying to tell if his mom’s car was parked there.

Somebody was standing on the driveway. A woman—he saw pale legs 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 the dog. He spotted a rock, picked it up, and turned around.

Oscar Mayer was barreling straight at him. Before Seth could jump the man hunkered low, like a linebacker, and tackled him.

Seth hit the ground so hard his glasses flew, but he kept hold of the rock. He bashed it against the guy’s head.

“Let me fucking go.”

The man grabbed Seth’s hand and pinned it to the ground. The brick 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 open and shove a handkerchief inside to gag him. The man had blood on his forehead where the rock had hit. Seth locked his jaw. Whiskey surged, 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 was just a stick insect. He opened his mouth to gulp a breath and got the handkerchief jammed past his teeth.

The man grabbed Seth’s hair, leaned down, and put his lips next to Seth’s ear. “I’ll hurt you.” His voice, so close, made wet noises against Seth’s skin. “But first I’ll hurt your dog. With a screwdriver.”

All Seth’s strength turned to water. A dark weight pressed on his chest, and tears rose uncontrollably toward his eyes.

Oscar Mayer smiled behind his shades. His gums looked pink and glistening. He turned to the brick. “Call.”

Without his glasses the twilight looked blurred and murky. Seth heard the brick on a cell phone.

“Come on.”

Oscar Mayer wiped the back of his forearm over his brow. “You know what this is about?”

On the street, a black van screeched to a stop. A man hopped out and strutted toward the woods. He was a skinny white guy, but he looked like a gangbanger. Or like one he’d seen on MTV. Blue bandanna tied around his forehead, chain hanging from the pocket of his saggy jeans, shoulders rolling. He was like the Mickey Mouse Club version of a lowrider.

Oscar Mayer eyed him like he was dressed for a parade. Marking him down as a moron. A scary one.

Then he turned his hot dog head back to Seth. “You know where your dad is? What he’s doing?”

Seth clamped his mouth shut.

“You got a choice. You want to get hurt, or disappear?” He scanned Seth’s face and let his wet mouth smile again. “Didn’t think so.” He looked at the other men. “Get him up.”

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The second Beckett thriller (see THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB) is an action-packed, fast-paced tale

    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

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Treasure Your Memory? Write It Down!

    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.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    More twists and turns from Gardiner; A perfect second installment in the Jo Beckett series.

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2009

    Worst Book!

    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 !

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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