Monday, June 24, 2013

"The Shadow Tracer"

Meg Gardiner was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from Stanford University and Stanford Law School.

She 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 novel, The Shadow Tracer, and reported the following:
In The Shadow Tracer, skip tracer Sarah Keller tracks down people who are evading arrest, debt, or prosecution. Off the job, she lives quietly in Oklahoma with her five-year-old daughter, Zoe.

Then a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER, and medical tests reveal what Sarah has been hiding: Zoe is not her child. Zoe’s biological mother—Sarah’s sister, Beth—was murdered when Zoe was tiny. And Zoe’s father is missing and presumed dead.

Suspected of kidnapping and murder, Sarah takes Zoe and runs. Chased across the Southwest by cops, federal agents, and the people who really killed Beth, she has to use her skills as a skip tracer to stay off the grid, remain one step ahead of her pursuers, and find a way to save her daughter.

Page 69 features a meeting between the opposing forces who want to capture Sarah: the FBI, and the violent family of Zoe’s father. FBI agent Curtis Harker comes to the supermax prison in Colorado Springs to interview Zoe’s imprisoned grandfather, clan patriarch Eldrick Worthe.
“Where’s Sarah Keller headed? Who’s helping her?”

Eldrick blinked and shifted his shoulders.

Harker paused, taken aback. “You don’t know.”

He straightened, processing. “It’s worse than I imagined. Your intelligence network has become slipshod. You can’t even keep track of your own progeny. Sarah Keller’s a lowly skip tracer and she probably knows more about the family than you do.” He half-laughed and tapped the photos on the table. “And your Shattering Angel is sidelined. He and your granddaughters may be living on the Mexican Riviera—on your dime—but they’re not keeping control of the clan the way you want. They can’t.”

Eldrick didn’t speak.

“After the courthouse bombing, I know the family sent Grissom and the girls into the wilderness to evade arrest. But they’ve been exiled a long time now. They have to be lonely. And they’re the ones whose lives are on the line. They’ll look out for number one. When they run out of money, or when they can’t stand their banishment one more second, what’s next? They come to us for protection.”

Harker leaned forward. “This is your last chance to help yourself. Your operation isn’t going to last long. So what’ll it be? You want to talk to me?”

Eldrick turned to the guard. “Take me back to my cell.”
The scene gives a good sense of the forces arrayed against Sarah. Agent Harker’s true obsession is to bring down the Worthe clan. To do that he dangles Sarah in front of Eldrick as bait, hoping to draw out the clan’s killers. Eldrick takes the lure, and sends his minions to eliminate Sarah and bring Zoe into the family fold. The scene offers a sense of the menace and gamesmanship that pervades the story: It’s a chase, a game of hide and seek, with a little girl’s life at stake.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Gardiner's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue