Sunday, July 9, 2017


Edgar-winning novelist Meg Gardiner writes thrillers. Fast-paced and full of twists, her books have been called “Hitchcockian” (USA Today) and “nailbiting and moving” (Guardian). They have been bestsellers in the U.S. and internationally and have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Gardiner  applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel UNSUB, the first book in a series featuring homicide investigator Caitlin Hendrix, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I’m calling about the baby found abandoned during a police raid two nights ago. This is the officer who brought her out of the house.”

A minute later she felt lighter. Relieved and with a loosening in her chest. The little girl, Baby Doe, had gotten a clean bill of health and was in temporary placement with a foster family.

The little fighter was safe, and warm, and being cared for. Yes, she was in psychological peril. Abandoned. But she was in hands that wouldn’t leave her in a crank house full of drugs and knives and gunfire. Caitlin pictured her wondrous wide eyes, held close to her own shoulder.

“Thank you. That’s good news.”

Take it when you can get it.

Behind Sequoia High School, past the football practice field, down the hill beyond the avocado orchard, was the concrete flood control channel that skateboarders called the Drain. The cyclone fence didn’t keep them out, not even on a blustery afternoon after a sad day at school, the weird vibe. Mr. Ackerman dead. Half a dozen kids were hanging there, a few taking advantage of the slopes and curves, the culverts and bends—not as good as a half pipe or empty swimming pool, but their spot—skating and sitting and talking about the freakiness of it all. Substitute teacher in Algebra, looking like a rabbit in the headlights. Like the classroom was poisoned. News vans on the street outside.

The Prophet. The actual, no-shit serial-killer who carved devil’s horns into his victims.
This excerpt captures the vibe and the rhythm of UNSUB. It gives a sense of the chaos that has invaded the world of the story. In the first section, the heroine, Caitlin Hendrix, tries to find out if a baby she rescued from a crank house is safe and well. In the second, teenagers at a suburban high school face the reality that their beloved teacher has been murdered by an infamous serial killer. The kids try to hold it together, but everything they’ve assumed about the safety of their lives has been turned inside out. Shortly after this moment, they literally stumble into a message from the killer.

Page 69 captures the tone and unsettling atmosphere of the book. Things are off kilter, and even the language reflects that. In the first section, Caitlin attempts to hang onto the “normal” life of a police detective. She’s trying to find positive news, something warm and hopeful, in her work day, as the serial murder case slowly swallows her life and swamps the Bay Area. The second section shows how the terror of the case is playing out: The killer is dominating the minds and emotions of the high school students. He has murdered their math teacher, and will soon draw these kids further into his world. UNSUB is a psychological thriller, and the killer plays mind games with the cops, the media, and the public. The high school skateboarders are about to discover exactly how that happens, as he draws them into his orbit and toys with them.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Gardiner's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue