The Memory Collector by Meg Gardiner ($28)
The second pulse-pounding thriller in Meg Gardiner’s Jo Beckett series, whose “thrilling,”1 “crackerjack,”2 “adrenaline-filled”3 debut was an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller.
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 head-shrinker: 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 anterograde amnesia, and can’t form new memories. Jo finds herself racing to save a patient who can walk and talk and yet can’t help Jo 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,” a missing wife and son, 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.
*Starred Review* Pursuit of a sinister drug that short-circuits short-term memory drives Gardiner’s second taut thriller starring San Francisco forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett (after The Dirty Secrets Club, in 2008). The doctor, who is accustomed to conducting investigations on the dead, has a live one this time: an airline passenger named Ian Kanan who became unhinged during a seemingly routine landing at San Francisco Airport. (He thrust open the emergency doors in a panic before two fellow passengers wrestled him away.) Turns out Kanan, an ex–Special Forces agent now working as a consultant, was sent to South Africa to intercept a rogue employee bent on stealing a cutting-edge drug called Slick. Designed as a “bomb-killer,” Slick’s untamed technology does more damage than good, prompting further explosions and rewiring the brains of those who come in contact with it. At some point, Kanan’s brain became infected; it now resets every five minutes, leaving him incapable of forming new memories. It’s up to Dr. Beckett to piece together Kanan’s past before Slick slithers its way into her beloved city. Bad guys, betrayal, and a beastly technology propel Edgar finalist Gardiner’s heart-stopping plot. Mystery fans are sure to embrace this whip-smart novelist, who gets better with every book. --Allison Block , Booklist