“The Dirty Secrets Club” Meg Gardiner (Hodder & Stoughton) – novel review
“Playing Vulcan Mind Meld with dead people,” widow Jo Beckett is a deadshrinker, a forensic psychiatrist with 48 hours to work out why prosecuting attorney Callie Harding took law student Angelika Meyer in a top condition BMW on a clear night and drove it straight over a bridge in San Francisco, killing herself but leaving Meyer in a coma. If Jo doesn’t work it out, more deaths will occur. But, before she can, an invitation arrives, “You killed your husband. Welcome to the Dirty Secrets Club.” Initiates are invited by existing members, lured by its exclusivity, where they discover they’ve made entry level and have to earn kudos to move up. A secret is powerful but, once confessed, the power’s transferred leaving the confessor vulnerable to blackmail and extortion. San Francisco makes a great location for a chase and Jo Beckett physically chases through labyrinthine streets as well as chasing clues to get to the heart of the Dirty Secrets Club.
But this isn’t ‘hop on board, belt up, you’re in for a rollercoaster’ ride where the reader passively watches the scenery and waits for the revelation to confirm their initial suspicions. This is a street chase over hard terrain where the reader feels every bump, every false turn, where a quake can suddenly distort the landscape and turn what seemed like a dead cert into a red herring. Not a word is wasted. Meg Gardiner’s writing is as honed as the tension she generates. Her plot, like a rolling stone, gathers no moss-like prose as it rolls towards the denouement. Highly recommended.