Saturday, 1 June 2013

Book Review: THE SHADOW TRACER by Meg Gardiner

The Shadow Tracer

Title: The Shadow Tracer
Author: Meg Gardiner
Publisher: Penguin Australia

Release Date: June 26, 2013
Read: May 27-29, 2013

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Can a person ever really disappear for good by going off the grid? And what happens when vanishing is no longer an option? Sarah Keller is a single mother living quietly in Oklahoma with her five year-old daughter, Zoe; her job is to hunt down people who are trying to avoid arrest and bring them to justice. But when a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER, that life explodes in a heartbeat because medical tests show that Zoe isn't Sarah's daughter and the lie Sarah has been living all these years is suddenly all too obvious. Who were Zoe's parents? Why has Sarah concealed the truth? And how will she and Zoe stay off the grid when the cops, the FBI and a sinister religious cult are all hunting them down . . . for very different reasons.

My thoughts:

In our age of technology, how hard would it be to disappear, become invisible, stay hidden? When every move, every transaction is recorded somewhere – on CCTV cameras, social media, atm transactions. Sarah Keller has no choice – with both law enforcement and some ruthless killers after her, she has been a fugitive for five years, trying not to draw any attention to herself. As a skip tracer, a professional paid to locate persons who do not want to be found, Sarah knows all the tricks required to stay under the radar. But when a freak accident exposes her identity, Sarah once again finds herself on the run, because she still has the one thing both the killers as well as the law want: her five-year old daughter Zoe. In a heart-stopping flight through America’s Southwest, Sarah and Zoe not only become the hunted, but also the bait to draw the killers into the open. Not able to trust anyone, it is up to Sarah to find a way to survive – and to keep her daughter safe.

With The Shadow Tracer, Gardiner surely delivers for all those adrenaline junkie readers out there: car chases, gun fights, sieges and bloody battles between law-enforcement and killers who won’t stop until they have got what they came for – it makes for one hell of a ride! Though at times stretching the boundaries of credibility, the plot is so fast paced and relentlessly thrilling that I was unable to put the book down and had to remind myself to “breathe”.

What is it about the idea of being hunted which makes for such compelling reading? Maybe it touches on one of our primeval fears, the nightmare of feeling cornered and exposed, being chased and having to run for our lives. Sarah does so in a spectacular fashion – gutsy, clever and very street smart, she is not easily cowed even when confronted by people who will stop at nothing to get what they want. I particularly liked the first part of the book, which described Sarah’s efforts to stay under the radar and out of harm’s way, and the steps she has taken to disguise her identity. Fleeing in the middle of the night in a borrowed car with a five-year old in tow, Sarah must rely on her experience of skip tracing to employ a few tricks of her own. Unfortunately this was also where a few discrepancies crept into the storyline for me – if the idea of prepaid credit cards was to make the transactions untraceable, how was it still possible for her pursuers to find transaction details on the statements? Maybe I was missing some vital clues or simply did not understand how the system works in other countries. However, the story was so compelling and fast paced that I did not get time to get hung up on details for once, but instead buckled up to enjoy the ride.

As the novel progresses and the various characters’ different agendas become more obvious, the body count starts to mount and the action speeds up until the breath-taking finale. Again, the final showdown stretched the boundaries of credibility a bit far for my normal preferences, saved however by the author’s ability to back it up with good character development and the adrenaline rush that went with it. With the fast paced action and the somewhat indestructible nature of all main characters, I would class this novel more in the action/adventure category than mystery/suspense – although it also delivered plenty of suspense!

It is rare to find a book which appeals equally to both sexes, but I believe Gardiner may have nailed it with The Shadow Tracer. Whilst female readers may be drawn to the gutsy female protagonist and her enigmatic male counterpart, the fast-paced action should appeal to male readers out there. Michael Lawless provides an interesting ally to Sarah in this novel, one which I could imagine seeing more of in future novels.

All in all, the Shadow Tracer provided me with a heart-pounding adrenaline rush and hours of entertainment and I recommend it to readers who enjoy fast-paced action/suspense stories. Gardiner is an author new to me, but I will make sure to look up her other novels.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an electronic preview copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This novel forms part of my 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge - category Action / Adventure.


  1. I just picked up this for review via Netgalley and I am looking forward to it!

    1. Hope you enjoy, Shelleyrae! =:>)) Looking forward to hearing your take on it.