Phantom Instinct by Meg Gardiner
~reviewed by Molly
Meg Gardiner has been known for some time for her strong female protagonists and tense, electrifying plots. She won the Edgar Award in 2009 for her novel China Lake and has continued to produce new, award-winning material almost as fast as her growing fan base can read them (almost). Although Gardiner writes from England, her latest thriller, like many of her others, is set in LA and the surrounding desert. Phantom Instinct slowly ratchets up the suspense, as a young ex-thief and a brain-damaged policeman play cat-and-mouse with a psychopath. Their task is complicated by the system’s refusal to believe such a killer exists. Throughout, Gardiner mixes good, old-fashioned criminality with a fair share of techno-crime, lending freshness and modernity to the thriller genre while still creating compelling human stories.
As Phantom Instinct opens, Harper Flynn, Meg Gardiner’s latest heroine mourns her boyfriend, shot dead in a nightclub attack. On the anniversary of his death, she notices herself being followed by a mysterious figure. She immediately suspects him of being a third gunman from the nightclub; never apprehended at the scene and believed by the FBI to never have existed at all.
Harper has only one ally on the side of the law. Detective Aiden Garrison believes her to be telling the truth. Unfortunately for Harper, Aiden suffers from a traumatic brain injury sustained during the nightclub fire. He now sees false enemies everywhere, obscuring his ability to spot a real threat and occasionally turning him into one.
Harper and Aiden must work together to protect Harper from her unknown stalker and convince the law that anyone is endangering her at all. In the meantime, past revelations about Harper and her relationship with the criminal underworld place her increasingly in danger and her story increasingly in doubt.
In her characterization of Harper and Aiden, Gardiner has created realistic depictions of flawed and vulnerable individuals. In their struggle to resolve enduring questions from the nightclub fire that killed Harper’s boyfriend, they also must resolve their own issues and find new compromise with old and painful memories. Their external struggle mirrors the internal as the two descend further into Harper’s past in order to protect her right to a future. Gardiner makes good use of her native Southern California city glitz and desert starkness to echo Harper and Aiden’s journey. Momentum builds as someone Harper cares for dearly is endangered, and the plot rushes forward at breakneck pace towards Phantom Instinct’s strong and satisfying conclusion.
Meg Gardiner will read from & sign her new novel here at BookPeople on Saturday, June 28th at 4PM! You can pre-order signed copies of Phantom Instinct now via bookpeople.com, or find a copy on our shelves in-store.