Meg Gardiner caught Auntie M’s eye with her novel The Dirty Secrets Club, where she introduced Jo Beckett, a forensic psychiatrist with an unusual specialty: she conducts psychological autopsies, an investigation into a person’s life to determine whether their death was natural, accidental, suicide or homicide.
It’s an interesting premise for a protagonist, and Gardiner makes the most of Beckett, her expertise, and her background. This time Beckett is called to help deal with an aircraft passenger whose erratic behavior she finally determines is due to anteretrograde amnesia, an unusual amnesia where the patient has total recall of his past life, but is unable to hold onto new thoughts for more than five minutes.
I’d never heard of this kind of amnesia, but Gardiner does a good job of explaining it and its devastating effects on her patient, security expert Ian Kanan. Imagine living your life by scrawling yourself messages in pen or your arm, surrounded by post- it notes to keep refreshing what you were doing five minutes previously.
It’s an exhaustive and horrifying illness, and when it starts to affect people Kanan has had contact with, Beckett knows she is up against some kind of deadly biological agent, and the race to prevent a catastrophic exposure to this agent becomes the focus of the action.
Gardiner also has five novels in the Evan Delaney series, including the Edgar Award finalist China Lake.