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The Nightmare Thief
by Meg Gardiner
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0525952217, Hardcover)Forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett returns in a fourth taut, groundbreaking thriller from Edgar Award winner Meg Gardiner.
Autumn Reiniger expects something special for her twenty-first birthday. Daddy's already bought her the sports car, the apartment, and admission to the private college where she parties away her weekends. Now she wants excitement, and she's going to get it.
Her father signs up Autumn and five friends for an "ultimate urban reality" game: a simulated drug deal, manhunt, and jailbreak. It's a high-priced version of cops and robbers, played with fake guns and fast cars on the streets of San Francisco. Edge Adventures alerts the SFPD ahead of time that a "crime situation" is underway, so the authorities can ignore the squealing tires and desperate cries for help.
Which is convenient for the gang of real kidnappers zeroing in on their target and a mammoth payday. Because what Daddy doesn't know is that someone has spotted his hedge fund's bulging profits, and the path to those riches runs right through Daddy's Little Girl.
Working on a case nearby is forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett and her partner Gabe Quintana. When the pair encounters a suspicious group of men carting six sullen college kids to the woods for a supposed wilderness adventure, alarm bells ring. Jo takes a closer look, and winds up with an invite to Autumn Reiniger's twenty-first birthday party-a party they may never leave.
Author One-on-One: Meg Gardiner and Jeffery Deaver
In this Amazon.com exclusive, authors Meg Gardiner is interviewed by Jeffery Deaver (Carte Blanche) about The Nightmare Thief.
Jeffery Deaver: This is the fourth Jo Beckett novel. Fans are always curious about whether authors age their characters or not. What's your approach to this?
Meg Gardiner: Time in my novels is flexible. Jo's life does pass, because over the course of the books she changes and grows, and that takes time. But she doesn't age according to the calendar on my wall. From The Dirty Secrets Club to The Nightmare Thief, about a year has gone by in her world. At heart, these books are about a young professional in San Francisco in the early years of the 21st century. And that won't change.
Deaver:. Jo's specialty, of course, is psychology, which she practices in The Nightmare Thief both on the living and on at least one fellow who ended up in an abandoned mine--not a pleasant excursion, I should add. Your insight into the mind is quite riveting; do you have a background in the subject?
Gardiner: What's truly riveting is the mind itself. That's why I love writing these books. But my background, like yours, is in law. Any deep insights into psychology come thanks to my sister, who's a psychiatrist. She's my go-to expert. And she's put me in contact with forensic psychiatrists--the physicians who, like Jo, perform psychological autopsies to determine whether a victim's death is suicide, accident, or murder.
Deaver: There is certainly violence in the book, but it never crosses the line into gratuitous gore and sensationalism. Indeed, there's an emotional tug in the novel when a life is lost or someone we care about is injured--you don't rely on bloody imagery or the stupid quips we see in bad movie thrillers. How do you achieve that?
Gardiner: Violence isn't glamorous. It's ugly and painful and leaves scars. I try always to remember that. While my novels depict the physical and emotional consequences of violent crime, over the years I've become more sparing when describing the violence itself. And you know why? I heard you talk about the "Theater of the Mind." You pointed out that what readers can imagine is far worse than what a writer can portray. (Talk about a riveting insight.) It's true: Leave most of the details in the shadows, and readers' imaginations will fill the darkness with monsters from their own worst nightmares.
Deaver: The title--and the core plot--reflect long-held phobias. Fess up: did this come from something in your childhood that scared the bejesus out of you? Or was it product of your imagination. (Oh, and thanks by the way for the snakes, one of my own fears!)
Gardiner: So you won't be visiting the Reptile House with us? What a shame. I didn't suffer any terrifying childhood traumas, unless you count getting scared by a park ranger who was dressed as a huge pink bunny--but let's not speak of that Easter egg hunt. The story forces the characters to face their phobias, under life-and-death conditions. Everybody has some fear that lurks down in the basement. Jo is severely claustrophobic. I hate heights. Let's change the subject.
Deaver: Jo and Gabe find themselves in the California wilderness, struggling to survive. The brilliant description of not only the geography but how one copes with the terrain suggests that you've had first-hand experience with the challenges our protagonists faced (minus the bad guys, I hope). Is that true?
Gardiner: Luckily, no. I grew up in California and love the Sierras. And I know how rugged the California wilderness can be. It's frighteningly easy to get in trouble in the mountains. Survival situations can arise only a few bends away from lattes and wifi. The wilderness survival tactics in the book draw on the U.S. Air Force Survival Manual and the work of the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard. Gabe's a PJ--a pararescueman--with the Wing. The real life PJs put themselves on the line when disaster strikes. Rescuing passengers from a bus wreck in the Sierras is actually one of their training scenarios. I can't say enough about how selfless and dedicated these guys are. Be glad they're around. Hope you never need them.
Deaver: The book is very tightly plotted, taking place in only a few days, with several subplots moving forward quickly and simultaneously--Jo and Gabe, the police, several possible victims, a clutch of baddies. How did you so successfully accomplish the juggling?
Gardiner: Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Tighten the screws, ratchet up the tension. Thrillers should thrill--they should give readers a real emotional experience. So the characters must need to get to safety now. Figure out how to escape yesterday. Move faster, because something's coming, and it's gaining on them.
Deaver: The main plot device is a live-action role-playing game. Is it true that these really exist? Could you describe a bit about how they work? And, by the way, remind me never to sign up for one.
Gardiner: These games do exist. One French company offers designer kidnappings, plus helicopter chases, a night in a morgue, and even the chance to be buried alive. These games are "designer thrills" for adrenaline junkies--customized scenarios that force players to face their worst fears. And they're perfectly legal, though the police want to be informed ahead of time so they can ignore emergency calls and screams for help. That's what startled me. It sounded like an open invitation for real crooks to hijack an adventure and kidnap people playing the game. And that became the starting point for the novel.
Deaver: Like Shakespeare, even in the drama of the story, there are bits of humor. For instance, I loved Pepito the dog, described as "the attack mop." Is humor something that comes naturally to you?
Gardiner: Maybe I'm twisted. Okay, strike the "maybe." But I can't write more than 50 pages without inserting humor into a book. Besides, thrillers shouldn't be wall-to-wall action. Reading a novel that's nothing but car chases and explosions feels like listening to feedback from an amplifier. Good novels contain changes of pace, and let readers catch their breath before being plunged into more life-or-death suspense. Humor can invigorate a story. In a thriller, it can be a refreshing surprise. And I'm glad you liked Pepito. Pop his little sheriff's hat on his head, and maybe he can take on those snakes for you.
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:48 -0400)
Given an expensive "ultimate urban reality" adventure for her twenty-first birthday, Autumn invites five friends to join her in a simulated drug deal and manhunt on the streets of San Francisco only to be exploited by real kidnappers.
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