For the last couple of years, I’ve from time to time mentioned the books I was reading (or the music I was listening to, or the movies I’ve been seeing). In the case of Meg Gardiner, a little more is necessary, because her five novels are, simply put, the finest crime-suspense series I’ve come across in the last twenty years. Ms. Gardiner’s heroine, Evan Delaney, is a little bit like Kinsey Milhone (same basic California locales), but you have to think of Kinsey Milhone louder, faster, funnier, scarier, and more violent. This is not to put the knock on Sue Grafton. I’ve read every Milhone mystery from A is for Alibi to S is for Silence and enjoyed them all. The series has grown in resonance and power. The Gardiner books are just… better, somehow. More fun, more bang for the buck. If you want, think of Kinsey Milhone crossed with Jack Reacher, the soldier of fortune in the Lee Child novels. Only Reacher has little sense of humor. Evan Delaney has Cousin Tater, the mad Midwestern relative- from-hell with the crazed libido and even crazier sideline: lingerie shows for suburban matrons. You wouldn’t think Cousin Tater would mix with serial killers, insane rock stars, and homicidal, homophobic religious cults…but somehow Meg Gardiner makes it all work.
You could say to me, “What’s the deal, Steve? Do you owe this lady money, or something?”
Fair question. The fact is, I have only met her once, briefly, in passing. That was on the London lap of my Lisey’s Story tour, and that’s the real crux of the Meg Gardiner Conundrum: London . As in London, England. As in, “This amazingly American voice is published there…but not here.” She isn’t a bestseller there, either, which really confuses me, because these books are your basic can’t-put-em-down thrill rides.
Do me a favor, okay? Lay your hands on the first Meg Gardiner—it’s called China Lake —and tell me I’m wrong about this. I don’t think you can, or will. If you read Sue Grafton, Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, or Nelson DeMille, you’re going to think Meg Gardiner is a gift from heaven for thriller/mystery readers. I’m tempted to mention Patricia Cornwell, also—another woman writer who isn’t afraid to spill a little fictional blood—but that comparison won’t quite hold. Unlike Ms. Cornwell, Meg Gardiner actually can write.
Not trying to flog the lady into the next big thing; not claiming these books as Undying Literature (there are critics who claim I wouldn’t know Undying Literature if it bit me in the buttock, and they may be right). I am saying you’ll be entertained. I also want to warn you that you’ll have to be resourceful, and use the Net. Once more: Meg Gardiner is not published in her native country. Insane, but true. So go either to her website, www.meggardiner.com, or to her publisher, Hodder & Stoughton (who are also my British publisher, but I swear that’s only a coincidence), or to Amazon.
The entire Evan Delaney series is: China Lake, Mission Canyon, Jericho Point, Crosscut, and Kill Chain (for now available only in hardcover).
I get nothing out of this. For most of you who’ve known me through the years, I think that goes without saying. But among the internet cruisers, there are always a few cynics, so I thought I better. I’m saying this because it drives me crazy that this woman is out there, doing this amazingly entertaining work, and not getting read.
So spend a few bucks.
Read Meg Gardiner.
- Steve King