Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"The Liar’s Lullaby"

Meg Gardiner's novels include the Jo Beckett series -- The Dirty Secrets Club, The Memory Collector, and the newly released The Liar's Lullaby.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Liar’s Lullaby and reported the following:
So, holding my breath, I turn to page 69. Does the page entice? Is it representative? Does it feature a helicopter crash or an attack by an insane monkey? Some elegiac revelation? Or is it nothing but white space?

In The Liar’s Lullaby, rock singer Tasia McFarland is killed by gunfire during the wildly ill-conceived opening of her stadium concert. The San Francisco police can’t determine whether her death is entertainment’s worst stunt catastrophe, a desperate suicide, or murder. So they enlist forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett to perform a psychological autopsy and uncover the truth. But Tasia’s death drags Jo into dangerous waters, because she was the ex-wife of the president of the United States.

My novels are fast-paced by design. They’re thrillers. Occasionally, things blow up. Characters sometimes scream and leap from bridges and skyscrapers. But here’s a secret: action sequences make up only a fraction of any story. And Jo Beckett is a psychiatrist, not a ninja. She performs psychological autopsies to assess the victim’s mental state. Jo’s job is to ask questions and to listen to the answers. She talks for a living.

Which is what she does on page 69. She meets the journalist who was ghostwriting Tasia’s autobiography. The man unsettles her, and she isn’t sure why.
“You the psychiatrist I heard about?”

“I’m Dr. Beckett. And you?”

He stopped beside her. “Ace Chennault.”

“Tasia’s autobiographer.”

“The author is gone but the ghost remains.”

He tried to sound jocular, but only managed forced. Belatedly he extended his hand.

Jo shook it. “I’d like to interview you. I’m—”

“Performing a psychological autopsy. I know. News travels fast.”


“Perhaps we can help each other out.”

His cloudless smile and baby-fat cheeks must have gotten him interviews with kindly grandmothers and with rock singers who were needy for a big brother’s attention. His voice had a hint of jollity. But Jo sensed a practiced stratagem behind the sad clown’s eyes. Journalists, one had once told her, needed to connect instantly and deeply with people they interviewed. They needed the illusion of intimacy, of being a person’s best friend for a day or an hour, to get the really juicy quotes.

And Ace Chennault was a journalist who’d just lost his biggest source—and source of income.
Jo senses that Chennault has his own agenda. It’s the last thing she wants, because the case has become a whirlpool of media hysterics, conspiracy theory, and political hardball. This scene hints that Chennault is going to cause her trouble. But a few pages later, both of them get a nasty surprise.

And that, too, is representative of the book.
The Page 69 Test: The Dirty Secrets Club.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory Collector.

Learn more about the author and her work at Meg Gardiner's website and blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue