The Memory Collector

by Meg Gardiner

Every once in a while a new literary talent who was previously
flying under the radar of stardom is “discovered” by a
recognized, successful writer and thereby sees his or her career
soar. Such is the case with the immensely talented Meg Gardiner,
who was the subject of a Stephen King column in Entertainment
in 2007. King had the opportunity to pick up one of
Gardiner’s U.K. paperbacks during a trip to Europe, hailed
her as “the next suspense superstar” and compared her
style to such literary luminaries as Michael Connelly, Sue Grafton,
Lee Child, Janet Evanovich and Nelson DeMille.

Gardiner has the unique background of being an American-born
writer who had to find success overseas in Europe before being
recognized in her home country --- similar to other U.S. writers of
recent years like Donna Leon and Richard Laymon.  Thank
goodness King “outed” her because she has now realized
her full potential in the U.S. by winning the Edgar Award for her
paperback original, CHINA LAKE. With her latest novel, THE MEMORY
COLLECTOR, she continues with the character of forensic
psychiatrist Jo Beckett, who debuted in 2008’s THE DIRTY
SECRETS CLUB. Prior to this, Gardiner had written five books in her
Evan Delaney series.

The plot centers on an individual suffering from anterograde
amnesia, the loss of memory of what happens after the event that
caused the amnesia. It is different from retrograde amnesia, where
memories prior to the event are forgotten. To a large degree,
anterograde amnesia remains a mysterious ailment because the
precise mechanism of storing memories is not yet well-understood,
although scientists know which regions of the brain are involved.
In this case, the victim is the mysterious Ian Kanan. Dr. Jo
Beckett is called to the San Jose airport where a plane is on the
tarmac having just flown in from London. On board is Kanan, acting
erratically and apparently having no memory of where he is or how
he got back to the U.S.

It turns out that Kanan had been on a mission in South Africa
for Chira-Sayf, where he worked as an independent contractor.
Beckett, who herself is an independent contractor working with the
San Francisco P.D., investigates Kanan’s background and finds
out his experience included a prior stint with a special forces
group called COBRA. Beckett also learns that Alec Shepherd, CEO of
Chira-Sayf, is Kanan’s brother and very protective of him.
Kanan came into direct contact with a substance known only as
“Slick,” a liquid form of an unstable nanoparticle that
was part of a discontinued nanotech project by Chira-Sayf. The bad
news is that coming into contact with this substance can cause the
rare form of amnesia from which he now suffers. Kanan cannot form
new memories and forgets anything after five minutes --- sort of
like the Guy Pearce character in the Christopher Nolan film,

Simultaneous to this action, both Kanan’s wife Misty and
son Seth are kidnapped by some mysterious thugs who seek Kanan and
the sample of Slick he allegedly brought back to the U.S. The
problem is that Kanan has no memory of this and no idea if and
where the dangerous substance was located on the flight from
London. Beckett, along with Lt. Amy Tang of the SFPD and other
colleagues, are now in a race against time not only to locate the
sample of Slick but also the whereabouts of Kanan’s family.
Most curious is that Shepherd was not responsible for Kanan’s
secret mission to South Africa, indicating that someone else within
Chira-Sayf may be operating on a dangerous agenda with unknown

What Meg Gardiner does best in this fast-paced novel is to
introduce characters and situations along the way without fully
revealing their intentions or relationship to the plot. Like a
master magician, she slowly pulls back the curtain on these
characters and plot elements as the story moves along and allows
the reader to put all the puzzle pieces together to determine what
the real picture is. THE MEMORY COLLECTOR is a worthy successor to
Gardiner’s previous work and, like Stephen King’s
claims, definitely places her among the elite thriller writers
working today.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 7, 2011

The Memory Collector
by Meg Gardiner

  • Publication Date: June 11, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0525950753
  • ISBN-13: 9780525950752