Monday, October 6, 2008

Jenn's Review: The Dirty Secrets Club

Summary: An ongoing string of high-profile and very public murder-suicides has San Francisco even more rattled than a string of recent earthquakes: A flamboyant fashion designer burns to death, clutching the body of his murdered lover. A superstar 49er jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. And most shocking of all, a U.S. attorney launches her BMW off a highway overpass, killing herself and three others.

Enter forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett, hired by the SFPD to cut open not the victim’s body but the victim’s life. Jo’s job is to complete the psychological autopsy, shedding light on the circumstances of any equivocal death. Soon she makes a shocking discovery: All the suicides belonged to something called the Dirty Secrets Club, a group of A-listers with nothing but money and plenty to hide. As the deaths continue, Jo delves into the disturbing motives behind this shadowy group—until she receives a letter containing a dark secret Jo thought she’d left deep in her past, and ending with the most chilling words of all: “Welcome to the Dirty Secrets Club.”

Review: I started reading Meg Gardiner over a year ago after reading Stephen King's column in Entertainment Weekly singing her praises. Of course the problem with that was, at that time, Ms. Gardiner's novels were only available in the UK. I am no stranger to ordering from, so I thought I'd order a couple and ~WOW, was I hooked! I ordered all the books in her Evan Delaney series.

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.

Infomercial over.

Dirty Secrets Club is the first book in a new series from Gardiner about Jo Beckett. I found this book to be shadow less intense than her series about Evan Delaney, because there is slightly less urgency in forensic psychiatry — slightly — though in this case Beckett is racing against time to prevent further murder-suicides from occurring. The plot was not quite as fine tuned as her other series, but still a dramatic page turner. Although you are introduced to the villains quite early on in the novel (a tactic that sometimes de-energizes a story), things are not always what they appear and there are lots of nice twists along the way.

Gardiner unwraps her heroines slowly, you learn more about them with each chapter and each novel, and Jo is no different. She give you bits and pieces of her, enticing you to read more. I am interested to see how she will develop throughout this series.

I think this was a great introductory novel for this series, and her first publication in the states. If you want a true sense of Gardiner, though, I highly recommend that you start with the Evan Delaney series, now available in paperback here in the US, of which China Lake is the first novel.
I will say this after having scanned through the reviews of this book that are out there, people seem to either love Gardiner or hate her; I fall into the category of the former. Gardiner is far and away, my favorite suspense novelist.

Final Take:  4.0/5.0


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