Culture & Criticism Since 2003
Tasked with taking a look at Meg Gardiner’s latest novel, Phantom Instinct, I perused her Wikipedia entry for background, and encountered this arresting line: “[S]he sought new thrills. Too squeamish to rob convenience stores, she took up crime writing.” Not only does Ms. Gardiner write engaging crime novels, she’s reducing the crime rate along the way. Convenience stores everywhere should carry her novel when it comes out in paperback, just out of gratitude. Levity aside, Phantom Instinct serves as a stand-alone book in which her protagonists, a sidelined cop and a sort-of retired criminal, chase a killer. However, they are the only people who even believe the killer exists, and this creates some surprise twists along the road. Strong characters and a layered plot illuminate why Gardiner won the Edger (Allen Poe) Award in 2009 for China Lake.
Suspicion tells the story of a man who, in order to send his daughter to a heralded private school, accepts a loan from the father of one of his daughter’s friends. Soon after, the DEA shows up at the door with a host of questions. The cops say the money is dirty and that the lender is a drug kingpin. Nonetheless, they’ll forgive the crimes if he narks for them. Suspicion is a compelling novel that tests the concepts of loyalty and betrayal, pitting these characters against the moral ambiguity of America’s drug war apparatus. Over the course of an acclaimed career, Finder has written eleven thrillers, including Paranoia and High Crimes, which subsequently became movies. Suspicion appears to have the muscle to climb the big-screen too.
Zepp Jamieson was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and spent his formative years living in various parts of Canada, the UK, South Africa and Australia before finally moving to the United States, where he has lived for over 40 years. Aside from writing, his interests include hiking, raising dogs and cats, and making computers jump through hoops. His wife of 25 years edits his copy, and bravely attempts to make him sound coherent. Reach him through The Electric Review.