2009: #89 – The Memory Collector (Meg Gardiner)

memorycollector Book #89 was The Memory Collector, Meg Gardiner’s second Jo Beckett book.  The back of the book reads:

Forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett’s specialty is the psychological autopsy — an investigation into a person’s life to determine whether a death was natural, accidental, suicide, or homicide. She calls herself a deadshrinker instead of a head-shrinker: The silence of her “patients” is a key part of the job’s attraction. When Jo is asked to do a psychological autopsy on a living person—one with a suspect memory who can’t be trusted to participate in his own medical care—she knows all her skills will be put to the test.

Jo is called to the scene of an aircraft inbound from London to help deal with a passenger who is behaving erratically. She figures out that he’s got anterograde amnesia, and can’t form new memories. Jo finds herself racing to save a patient who can walk and talk and yet can’t help Jo figure out just what happened to him. For every cryptic clue he is able to drag up from his memory, Jo has to sift through a dozen nonsensical statements. Suddenly a string of clues arises, something to do with a superdeadly biological agent code-named “Slick,” a missing wife and son, and a secret partnership gone horribly wrong. Jo realizes her patient’s addled mind may hold the key to preventing something terrible from happening in her beloved San Francisco. In order to prevent it, she will have to get deeper into the life of a patient than she ever has before, hoping the truth emerges from the fog of his mind in time to save her city—and herself.

When I first discovered Meg Gardiner, I rejoiced.  But I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with this book. I really like Jo and Gabe, but this was just lacking something.  She does do one interesting thing, creating a bad guy (Ian Kanan) that you feel a great deal of sympathy for. However, I think "Slick" was just a little too out-there, the nano-technology and its effects a little too complex to know if it’s something that’s plausible or not. I mean, it already erases your short-term memory, does it have to explode too? Plausibility is really a key component of a suspense novel for me – could this situation really happen? If the answer is "no", then where is the suspense? Also, it seemed like Gardiner relied on similes a little too much. If you search the book on Amazon for the word "like", you come up with 199 instances.  I’m willing to bet that at least 75% of them are used in phrases like "like a lighthouse searchlight", "like bulbs in a tumble dryer", and "like a swimmer off the blocks".  I can’t recall the other two books I’ve read, The Dirty Secrets Club and China Lake, being so overloaded with similes, so I’m not sure if this is something she always does or if I’m just more attuned to it right now because I’ve been doing a lot of reading about writing lately. Either way, it left me feeling a bit empty. 

If this is your first Meg Gardiner book, don’t give up on her.  She’s done so much better.  Hopefully this is just a bump in the road.

Audiobook length: 12hrs 30min | Approximate word count: 92,000

2008: Nefertiti (Michelle Moran)
2007: The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
2006: Dangerous Tides (Christine Feehan)

Used in these Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge 2009;

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