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I haven't read any of Meg Gardiner's books before, but The Dirty Secrets Club is her sixth. It sounded a good thriller, so I was looking forward to starting it. The cover is a dramatic red and it took a while before I noticed the apparently dead naked woman within the letters!
I began reading. I like my thrillers to be exciting, fast-moving and instantly grab my attention. Unfortunately, this one didn't grab my attention for the first few chapters and I initially found it rather dull and hard-going.
The heroine of the piece is Johanna Beckett, a forensic psychiatrist who profiles the dead to see if she can help determine the cause of their demise - suicide, accident or murder. She is called in by Lieutenant Amy Tang, a feisty cop, to help in the investigation when a car crash kills Callie Harding, a local bigwig prosecutor at the US Attorneys' Office.
Harding has smashed her car into a bridge, but why? When words are found scrawled on her arm and leg, the mystery deepens. Soon Jo and Amy are looking into something called The Dirty Secrets Club. What is it? Who is involved? And why do the members seem to be dying in mysterious circumstances? As they look further into it, they realise they are up against a time limit, as more deaths occur...
After the slow start, I did get into it. I found it very American and all the details about the car crash and the American road system bored me senseless. I also found the long descriptions of the surroundings rather tedious and kept willing it to get into the action.
The characters were well-written though and that was what caught my attention and finally drew me in, so that by the middle of the novel, I was reading it every day and looking forward to finding out what happened.
The lead character of Jo Beckett is particularly well done and I would be interested to read more novels with her in. She is someone most women can relate to and despite having many admirable qualities, she also has faults and weaknesses, so she is very believable.
Her friend Gabe Quintana is probably the closest the novel gets to a rugged hero and he is rather lovely, so I enjoyed reading his scenes too and would expect him to appear in any future Jo Beckett stories.
There were a few weak bits of writing and some clichés, but overall, it was an easy read and I did enjoy it. It wasn't too predictable and had plenty of twists and turns to hold the reader's interest. It was multi-layered with plenty of characters, but not too many that it became hard to follow who was who.
It also had a good ending where everything was resolved satisfactorily and all the many threads of the story were woven together. Even parts I had forgotten about from earlier in the novel were revisited and conclusions were drawn.
While I wouldn't buy this myself, it is worth a read and I would definitely consider reading more of her novels in the future.
NB: This review was originally published on The Bookbag.