The Burning Mind (or The Phantom Instinct for USA readers) is the first novel by MG Gardiner. And is also the twelfth published by the author, because MG Gardiner is the author formerly known as Meg Gardiner.
Haven’t heard of Meg (or MG) Gardiner? To be honest i hadn't until i stumbled across this book in ASDA . But some googling tells me that Meg practiced law in LA and taught writing at the University of California and she counts Stephen King and Lee Child among her biggest fans. She has written two thriller series with the recurring characters, Evan Delaney and Jo Beckett, and is an Edgar Award winner. The Burning Mind is the latest in a number of standalone's.
Harper Flynn is working behind a bar when gunmen burst in, killing her boyfriend, Drew, and burning the place to the ground, with two gunmen dying in the process. Harper is convinced there were three gunmen, and that the third killer had been specifically targeting her in the attack. But neither the police, nor Drew’s family believe her. One year on, she spots someone lurking in the trees at Drew’s memorial service, and is convinced that she has seen the elusive third gunman. But the only person she can convince is Aiden Garrison, one of the policemen who survived the night of the attack.
But Aiden suffered a brain injury that night and now has delusions that random innocent people are killers in disguise.
If that doesn’t complicate things enough, Aiden discovers that Harper has a secret past that put significant doubt into his mind that she might be part of the whole conspiracy, and not a victim.
The thing I liked about this book is Gardiner’s ability to throw ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances and let them sink or swim. Or, in this case, do a lot of floundering in some very murky waters. Her characterizations are as good as any thriller I've ever read , quickly bringing Harper, Aiden and Erika to life, and gradually peeling back some of the protective layers wrapped so tightly around Harper herself.
Meg’s writing style is to ratchet up tension at every opportunity, and she manages that in this book with apparent effortless skill. I have read some great books in my time but only a few of them have kept me up into the early hours because I could not put them down. This is one of them.
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