Gardiner practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She’s a former collegiate cross-country runner and a three time Jeopardy! champion. She divides her time between London and Austin, Texas.
Gardiner applied the Page 69 Test to her new stand-alone thriller, Phantom Instinct, and reported the following:
Phantom Instinct is about two wounded survivors of a shootout, who work together to catch the prime gunman. The trouble? Nobody else believes the shooter exists. Harper Flynn worked as a bartender at the club that was attacked. Detective Aiden Garrison was severely injured during the shootout. Now they can’t convince anybody that the shooter is stalking witnesses to the attack—including the two of them. The more they learn, the more dangerous things become. The more they’re drawn to each other. And the more distrust builds between them.Writers Read: Meg Gardiner.
On page 69, they confront each other.“I’m trying to convince the department that the third shooter exists and is back.”Page 69 is where Aiden and Harper hit the crux of the problem between them: He has just learned that she’s an ex-thief. She has just learned the reason he can’t return to duty: his head injury has resulted in Fregoli Syndrome, a rare kind of face blindness. It can cause him to believe that the person he’s looking at is actually somebody else in disguise. They each have ample cause to mistrust the other. Now they have to decide whether they can work past that to catch a killer.
“Then you’re going to have to convince me.”
His eyes were hidden by the sunglasses, his face clenched with some cool bitterness. Sorenstam had planted a seed of suspicion, and it was growing twisted roots. Harper felt she was on the edge of something very bad. It was circling. She had only a little time to get out from under it, or her last chance to come out of this the right way would be gone for good.
“You want to know the truth? I’ll tell you. And Sorenstam can dig up the court records and rip open everything that was supposed to be confidential. You can corroborate everything I’m going to tell you. But—”
“But you have to tell me everything about your traumatic brain injury. The issue with misidentifying people. Straight up.”