The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 4, 2009

Book review: Intense action propels 'Memory Collector'

“The Memory Collector”

By Meg Gardiner (compact disc audiobook)

A couple of passengers restrain Ian Kanan, passenger on a flight from London, when he tries to open an exit door. Kanan has no memory of where he is or why he is in the United States.

Dr. Jo Beckett a forensic psychologist is called in to investigate when brain scans reveal that Kanan has no short-term memory. He escapes before she discovers that his exposure to a top-secret nanotech chemical product known as “Slick” has caused a rare form of amnesia. Kanan only remembers things up until the time of his exposure to this mysterious biological contaminant. He will never be able to form new memories or ever hold a memory for more than five minutes.

Kanan is desperately looking for Slick. Kidnappers have his family and Slick is the ransom, only Kanan cannot remember where he put it. The reminder scrawled on his arm — “Saturday they die” — terrifies him. Jo and her friend, Lt. Amy Tang of the San Francisco Police Department, and Jo’s boyfriend, Gabe, race against time to find Kanan and the toxic chemical in order to save the city of San Francisco from this horrifying, brain-devouring substance.

Meg Gardiner’s second novel featuring Dr. Jo Beckett is a suspenseful and fast-paced thriller. Susan Ericksen effectively utilizes foreign dialects to portray realistic characters, while her excellent narration sustains the intense action.

“Gone Tomorrow”

By Lee Child (compact disc audiobook)

Jack Reacher, a former military police major, is riding on a subway car in New York when he notices that the only woman fits all of the criteria of a suicide bomber. However, what would be the point of her carrying out a suicide bombing? It is 2 o’clock in the morning and there are only four or five passengers on the subway train.

In order to try to calm the woman, Reacher approaches her and explains that he a police officer. She pulls out a gun and kills herself. Reacher’s decision sets off a course with deadly consequences. The New York Police Department, the FBI, and other government agencies question Reacher’s motivation for confronting Susan Marks. Susan was no suicide bomber but apparently she was carrying a secret, and a number of people believe that she gave Reacher something that contained the secret before she died. Reacher enlists the aid of her brother to discover Susan’s motivation for taking her life and to exact vengeance from the bad guys.

Reacher tells the heart-stopping story in first person. The terrific action sequences move at breakneck pace and the plotting and characters are first rate. Dick Hill’s skillful narration adds depth to the portrayal of the characters and the tension. Jack Reacher will not disappoint his millions of fans.

“Road Dogs”

By Elmore Leonard (“Playaway” audiobook)

Jack Foley, the charming, sexy bank robber who made his first appearance in “Out of Sight,” claims to have robbed over 170 banks. Foley gets out of jail early thanks to Cundo Rey, who also appeared in “La Brava,” an earlier Leonard novel.

Rey, an extremely wealthy Cuban criminal and Foley’s prison buddy (road dog), pays $50,000 for a lawyer to spring Foley. Rey gives Foley a credit card and access to his multi-million dollar homes in California. Dawn Navarro, a beautiful psychic con and Rey’s common-law wife, has been waiting on Rey’s release for eight years. In the meantime, Little Jimmy, Rey’s partner, has been taking care of Rey’s business.

Foley makes himself at home in one of Rey’s houses. He has decided to go straight — no more bank robberies in his future. Soon, he and Dawn connect and begin a torrid affair, while thinking of ways to relieve Rey of some of his money. Rey’s release comes a few days early and he arrives home unexpectedly. Adding to the tension is FBI agent Lou Adams who dogs Foley’s every step. Agent Adams is determined to catch Foley in one last bank heist and intends to write a book about him.

The plot is weak but Leonard skillfully employs quirky and sleazy engaging characters and rich and colorful dialogue in “Road Dogs.” Peter Francis James narrates this enjoyable, fast-paced caper novel.

Phyllis Seesengood is the technical services librarian at Joplin Public Library.