Meg Gardiner can give much thanks to Stephen King for opening the door to her domestic success. In his former column in Entertainment Weekly, he indicated years back that he had discovered her work in the UK and predicted she would be the next suspense superstar. With an endorsement like that, you could either live up to it or fall short. Thankfully, Meg Gardiner has continued to be one of the smartest thriller writers working today, and US readers quickly clamored to her work the same way those in the UK had. She has gone on to win the highly coveted Edgar Award and spun two terrific thriller series starring Evan Delaney and Jo Beckett.
Gardiner’s latest release, THE SHADOW TRACER, is a stand-alone title. The characters here, as in all her prior novels, are so engaging and real that I’m hopeful it is not the last we see of them. Sarah Keller of Oklahoma spends her days and many nights working as a skip tracer. She’s an expert at tracking down those on the lam from the law or those seeking to avoid prosecution and seeing that they face justice.
"Gardiner lifts the suspense to an almost unbearable level as the reader is flying right along with Sarah and Zoe as they fly into uncertainty while constantly pursued by those with ill intent."
Sarah tries to live a quiet existence with her five-year-old daughter, Zoe. However, the peace and quiet are instantly broken when Sarah gets a call that Zoe and her school bus were involved in a car accident and all the children are at the hospital. By the time Sarah arrives there, she is too late. Not to save Zoe, who only has minor bumps and bruises, but to protect their secret from getting out.
Here is where Meg Gardiner is at her best as she peels back the layers of secrecy that is the life of Sarah Keller. It turns out that Zoe is actually Sarah’s niece, and her real mother --- Sarah’s sister, Beth --- is dead. Beth was murdered at the hands of an evil cult known as the Worthe Family, and Sarah took Zoe into hiding immediately and recreated her backstory to pose as her own daughter.
The Worthe family will stop at nothing, literally, to recapture Zoe. It seems she is implanted with a chip that has some vital information on it. There is also a less savory reason why they want her back, which will have readers cringing. Sarah was helped out once by a US Marshall named Lawless and immediately reaches out to him again as she flees the hospital with Zoe in tow in an attempt to evade the FBI, local law enforcement and the deadly Worthe clan.
In THE SHADOW TRACER, Gardiner lifts the suspense to an almost unbearable level as the reader is flying right along with Sarah and Zoe as they fly into uncertainty while constantly pursued by those with ill intent. The fact that there are very few people she can trust will require Sarah to call upon all the resources that have made her a great skip tracer, and you are compelled to root for her even though the odds are clearly stacked against her.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 28, 2013