Review of The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner
The latest thriller from Edgar Award-winning novelist Meg Gardiner is a careening pursuit through the southwest that rarely lets up on the gas.
Meg Gardiner opens The Shadow Tracer with a gripping scene that not only introduces you to our heroine, Sarah Keller, but is also the event that began all of her troubles. It’s something that isn’t completely explained at the time–Gardiner revisits this scene several times, showing both the reasons for Sarah’s current predicament and her own skill at the slow reveal.
While I won’t get into all of the details of Sarah’s predicament here, the vital information is this: Sarah has been in hiding for five years, raising her murdered sister’s daughter as her own. She’s been working as a skip tracer (more on that in a moment), keeping her head down and trying to give her niece/daughter Zoe the most normal existence possible. However, thanks to some bad luck following a school bus accident, Sarah is forced to go on the run with Zoe.
The action really takes off from there, and Gardiner has no trouble keeping the pace up. Given the fact that the bad guys chasing Sarah and Zoe are methamphetamine-making (and using) polygamist zealots, I suppose that’s not very surprising.
One of the really fun elements of The Shadow Tracer is Sarah’s occupation as a skip tracer. Think of a skip tracer as a kind of modern bounty hunter–someone that tracks down people trying to avoid jail or debts, people on the run. It makes for some excellent action with Sarah, a woman that aspired to be a Secret Service agent as a child, as she suddenly becomes the one on the run.
Another aspect I enjoyed was how seamlessly Gardiner weaved in elements to her story that marked it as clearly happening in the early 21st century–references to social media and smartphones, little snippets of current music in the background. Many authors can be heavy-handed with this, almost like they’re winking at you about it. Gardiner smoothly rolls it into the story, only noticeable because you know that this is happening in the present day.
The Shadow Tracer has all the necessary elements for a solid action novel: a strong, relatable heroine; believable action; a strong cast of characters; and a real knack for getting the details right. But Gardiner also gives it a fairly fresh plotline, something that’s difficult to pull off in this genre, and something that makes The Shadow Tracer highly recommendable.