Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jenn's Review: The Liar's Lullaby

Summary: Tasia McFarland is a washed-up country-pop singer desperate for the break that will get her topping the charts again. The tabloids have raked over every part of Tasia's rocky life, following every high and low, her addictions, her breakdowns, her increasingly erratic behavior-and every broken relationship. The highlight of this lowlight reel: her failed marriage to an ambitious Army officer whose political talents earned him a spot in the nation's highest office. Tasia McFarland is the ex-wife of the President of the United States.
So when Tasia writes a song with politically-charged lyrics, people take note and her star begins to rise anew. In the spectacle-driven opener of her comeback tour, she is lowered into a stadium on a zip line and as helicopters fly overhead she fires her prop Colt 45 at the fireworks-filled stage. Tasia is riding high.

Until she's killed by a bullet to the neck, before the shocked crowd of 40,000.

When video can't prove that the shot came from Tasia's own Colt .45 and the ballistics report comes up empty, the authorities call on forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett to do a psychological autopsy and clean up the potential political disaster. But as Jo sifts through the facts, she only finds more questions. Was Tasia's gun loaded? Did she kill herself in one last cry for attention? Were her politically-charged lyrics the rantings of a paranoid woman losing her grip? Or warnings from a woman afraid and in danger? For Jo, pouring over Tasia's past quickly becomes a race to extinguish the conspiracy rumor mill before it incites a level of violence that reaches America's highest corridors of power-and tears apart the very fabric of our nation.

Review: It's no secret that I'm a huge Meg Gardiner fan – both her Evan Delaney series and her Jo Beckett series. This is the latest installment in the latter and it does not disappoint!

Being a forensic psychologist has it's caveats. It can make you a target for grieving family and psychopaths, and in a high profile case such as this, stalkers, conspiracy nuts, killers, and government intimidation. Jo must investigate this case quickly and thoroughly as she is feeling pressure from all sides to wrap things up (and everyone's pushing for a different outcome) but records are missing, interviewees are uncooperative, or unavailable, and things just aren't adding up.

Gardiner's books are fast paced and detailed. Did I figure out the whodunit before Beckett? Yes, but that's because the reader is supplied with far more information than poor Jo. The fascinating part was having more pieces of the puzzle than Jo, and being able to get a hazy picture of the situation, but not being able to put all the pieces together. We need Jo's investigation to do that for us. And even with all of that, there were still twists and turns that surprised me. Gardiner, as always, also finds a way to alleviate some of the the intensity in the book by inserting levity in the form of wit, sarcasm, and in this case, revenge on a prying media hound.

Though her books are parts of a series, Gardiner also makes them stand-alone accessible –especially the Beckett series– but with most series, they're more enjoyable in order. Relationships and non-plot related conflict are left open, leading the reader into the next book.(The first book in the Evan Delaney series is China Lake. The first book in the Jo Beckett series is The Dirty Secrets Club.)

Gardiner's one of the few thriller authors whose books I can never put down. I suggest you pick her up.

5/5
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