Summary: Santa Barbara attorney Evan Delaney is gutsy and tough, but she has a tender side, too. She dotes on her nephew, Luke, who’s staying with her while his fighter-pilot father, Brian, is deployed overseas. (Brian, who’s stationed at the Mojave Desert naval weapons-testing center, China Lake, has been divorced from Luke’s mother, Tabitha, for years.) Evan’s peaceful cohabitation with Luke is thrown into chaos when Tabitha returns to town under the spell of the Remnant, a fundamentalist sect arming itself for the apocalypse with artillery and biological weapons. Tabitha wants Luke back—no questions asked. Brian comes home, and when the sect’s eerie leader is found dead in Brian’s backyard, the career military man is thrown in jail with little hope of release. Evan and her boyfriend, Jesse, come to Brian’s defense, prompting a flood of memories for Evan, who grew up in China Lake. ~amazon.com
Gardiner's writing is... intense, there's just no other word for it. Gardiner is a brilliant linguist. There's no sentence, no word, that's extraneous. (If you're a skim-reader —you know who you are, skimming over paragraphs when things get a little dull— then this author is not for you.) Everything is very tightly packaged, wound with action and suspense. I've never read another author like her.China Lake strikes a chord on many fronts, be it religious fanaticism, biological warfare, patriotism, conspiracy, or just protecting the welfare of a child with nothing but sheer nerve to back you up. There are those who say Gardiner's too wordy, too unrealistic, or that her heroine is too rash. Obviously I disagree. I think this plot is all too plausible; perhaps frighteningly so... and as for too rash, there is no such thing when you're protecting a child.
Jenn's Final Take: 5.0/5.0
Julie's Review: I've been wanting to read Meg Gardiner since Steven King pimped her in EW and I'm not a Steven King fan! I will say that I wasn't disappointed. I really liked Evan Delaney. I thought she was smart, sassy and had a lot of gumption. That being said, she's a writer and attorney and I'm wondering how she gets mixed up in this stuff. Granted this is the first book in the series and it's a minor complaint. The story line freaked me out a bit and gave me nightmares the final night of reading. Doomsday groups always scare me and this was no different. Religious fanaticism is something I don't comprehend. The Remnant is a bunch of power hungry fanatics who use the Bible to cover up what they really are... home grown terrorists. Biological warfare is another scary issue covered in China Lake and is far more real than Nuclear warfare. Seriously any Joe Blow can get his hands on the chemicals to hurt thousands in a certain area. That being said, the book isn't all doom and gloom, there are some light moments.
I can't say I "liked" all the characters in the book but they were interesting. I loved how Ms. Gardiner weaved Brian and Evan's past into the current and the one twist in the book that I really wasn't expecting. I also felt for Tabitha. What a lost soul she was and she was that way before meeting Brian.
I'm still out on my opinion of Jesse. I didn't like him but I didn't dislike him. Maybe more indifferent. I'm also trying to figure out why Evan is with him. More for attitude than anything else.
I'll definitely stick with the Evan Delaney series and look forward to reading the next one....Mission Canyon.
Julie's Final Take: 4/5