Crosscut is the fourth novel in the popular Evan Delaney series and sees a return to the China Lake setting of Gardiner's debut novel.
Delaney, a former lawyer turned successful novelist, has been invited back to her High School Year reunion but is dismayed to note just how many of her former class-mates have died. Quickly it becomes apparent that not all these deaths are accidental when more fresh bodies begin to pile up and Delaney has to consider the fact that someone is hunting down the people in her former peer group. Could this be linked to an explosion at the local Military base she and her friends witnessed on a Class trip all those years ago? Is it possible that someone is finally trying to orchestrate a cover-up for something that happened way back in Delaney's school days?
In desperation, Delaney turns to her Navy father who worked on the base and begins to uncover a long dormant conspiracy. Also aided by a couple of shadowy, mercenary figures Delaney has unintentionally become associated with, slowly pieces of the truth become revealed and a race against time develops to find the killer before they can strike again. But the cost of the truth comes with much tragedy and at very high personal expense as Delaney has to come to terms with the fact that she and her class-mates may have been exposed to a deadly and debilitating neurological viral agent.
This is a gripping novel from beginning to end that far surpasses the potential seen in China Lake, the series' debut. Having missed the two middle entries in the sequence though, there were times when I felt a little lost as previous events are alluded to in the early chapters, especially regarding the two mysterious figures who seem to have ingratiated themselves into Delaney's life and who may or may not have a hidden agenda. For readers who have not encountered these figures before, such as myself, it does feel as though a few important pieces of the jigsaw are absent and though this could be a clever way of ensuring that readers pick up her previous novels, this is a double-edged sword as it also works to slightly alienate newcomers to Gardiner's work! To her due, Gardiner does try to keep her readers up to speed with the relevant back-story, it is just a shame that a big portion of the book focuses around these two mercenaries who seem to provide a lot of convenient knowledge whenever things threaten to falter.
Thankfully, the rest of the novel does not suffer for this small, minor niggle and what is left is a fast-paced thriller with a plot that never stops moving! The book is action-packed and a real roller-coaster of a read that certainly never fails to impress. At no point did I feel disappointed and this was without question an author I would return to in the future if only to fill in a few of the gaps in Delaney's life. Gardiner manages to impress on a number of levels and it is very hard to find any major faults!
If you like fast, edgy and well paced thrills with a topical edge this book is definitely for you! Gardiner is without any doubt a highly under-rated author and one who deserves much bigger attention! Certainly she has won herself a new fan in me!!