I first heard about Meg Gardiner and her five "Evan Delaney" novels (China Lake, Mission Canyon, Jericho Point, Crosscut, and Kill Chain) almost three weeks ago when Stephen King wrote a rather long endorsement on his website about this fabulous crime-suspense author, who's an American, but lives in England and whose books are only published outside of the United States. Whew! That was a mouthful. King praised all of Gardiner's novels and was unable to understand why someone so talented isn't being read on a much larger basis. Because Meg Gardiner's books are not being published in the United States (King should talk to his American paperback publisher about this), it's a little more difficult to find her stuff without paying an arm and a leg for it. I was able to find two of her paperbacks on Amazon through the "used books" section. Not bad for a few minutes of work. The only catch is that I have to start with the second novel in the series, Mission Canyon, but beggars can't be choosers.
The plot of Mission Canyon revolves around a hit-and-run accident that happened three years before and involved Evan Delaney's fiancé, Jesse Blackburn, and his close friend, Isaac Sandoval. Both Jesse and Isaac were riding their bicycles through the hills of Santa Barbara and were struck from behind by a car that was supposedly driven by Franklin Brand, a VP at Mako Technologies, a corporation that deals with cyber security. Jesse was paralyzed below the waist and Isaac was killed. To avoid prosecution, Franklin Brand skipped the country and disappeared. Now, he's suddenly back in town, and Evan, Jesse, and Isaac's brother, Adam, want him arrested for vehicular manslaughter. If only life was so easy. As Evan and Jesse and Adam try to put Brand behind bars once and for all, they unexpectedly find themselves caught up in a labyrinth of deceit and lies that go far deeper than the car accident. There's something going on that not only involves Franklin Brand, but also Mako Technologies, the F.B.I., money laundering, cyber crime and extortion, a small ring of criminals from Los Angeles, and a pair of ex-contract assassins who used to work for the Central Intelligence Agency. Before Evan can even say, "Cousin Tater," people are going to be dropping like flies, and she's going to have a hard time keeping herself alive, not to mention Jesse and Adam. Justice will come at a heavy price!
I have to say that Mission Canyon is certainly one of the most complex novels that I've read in quite a while. It's necessary for the reader to pay attention to what's going on, or he may find himself lost and confused about who's doing what to whom. I won't say that a score card is needed, but it does come close when you consider how many different characters are involved in this story and how often their roles change throughout the novel. Almost no one can be trusted. Every character seems to be hiding something. Poor Evan Delaney finds herself caught in the middle, not knowing whom she can turn to. I only wish she carried a handgun. She comes so close to being killed a number of times that I found myself shouting out loud in my apartment. "Get a gun! Get a gun, damn it!" Now, since this is only the second book in the series, I hope this issue has been resolved. If you're going into dangerous territory, you'd better be packing some heat. I also want to add that the book is extremely fast paced. Gardiner knows exactly how to pace her novel so that the reader has to put off going to the bathroom in order to find out what happens next. I hated her for that! Though a great read, I still had a couple of problems with some of the scenes in the book. In one scene, though Evan understands that she's in danger, she still decides to baby sit her neighbor's child and almost gets herself and the kid killed. I think this was bad judgment on the main character's part. In another scene, though several people have already been murdered, Evan and her fiancé, Jesse, have an argument about a woman he had an affair with before she came into the picture. She already knew that he'd been involved with someone, just not who. To me this was wasted energy on Evan's part. If she's going to be tough, then she needs to start acting tough and not like a prima donna. My thought was that if you and Jesse get out of this alive, then you can rake him over the hot coals. Right now, both of you have more important things to worry about. As one character tells her, "You're not as tough as you think." All in all, a fabulous novel by a relatively unknown author, who just happens to look like her main character. I'm looking forward to reading my next "Evan Delaney" novel and eventually the whole series. Come on, Steve, let's get moving with your publishers. That's the only way Meg Gardiner is going to become a household name here in the United States.