Meg Gardiner talks Jo Beckett



I wanted to turn CSI inside out.

Forensic pathology and crime scene investigation can tell us a lot, but often they come up short—the evidence may be inadequate or inconclusive. And while blood spatter, DNA and gunshot wound analysis might tell us how a victim has died, for closure we still need to know why.

So I wanted to write a thriller series set in a messy, uncertain, dangerous world where lab technology can’t solve all problems. Yeah, I wanted to write about the world we actually live in.

And that’s where Jo Beckett comes in. Jo is law enforcement’s last resort in baffling cases. But she’s not a cop. She’s a doctor—a forensic psychiatrist who analyzes dead people for the police.

She’s a deadshrinker.

When the San Francisco Police Department runs out of leads and the crime lab can’t figure out why a victim has died, they call on Jo to perform a psychological autopsy. Her job is to find the truth in ambiguous cases—the cases that frustrate the police and leave victims’ families bewildered in their grief. She delves into victims’ state of mind to determine whether their deaths are suicide, accident or homicide.

Jo doesn’t pick up gory bits of trace evidence with tweezers. She digs into people’s passions, obsessions and secrets to find out what killed them. Her territory is the psyche and the human heart.

And in THE LIAR’S LULLABY, Jo’s back is up against it.

She’s thrown into the deep end from the moment the SFPD calls on her to investigate a celebrity’s shocking death. The victim, country-pop star Tasia McFarland, dies spectacularly during her entrance at a stadium concert—with 40,000 fans watching. And the police can’t determine whether her death is the decade’s worst stunt catastrophe, a splashy suicide, or murder.

Tasia had warned people that she was going to be assassinated. But she had a history of paranoia and erratic behavior. So the SFPD asks Jo to perform a psychological autopsy on Tasia to uncover the truth. But the case pulls Jo into a cyclone of conspiracy theory, media hysteria, and political hardball, because Tasia wasn’t just a singer. She was the ex-wife of the President of the United States.

The police—and the government—want the case closed quickly, but as Jo sifts through the facts she only finds more questions. Did Tasia plan her own death as one last call for attention? Or was she just the first in a series of political dominoes waiting to be knocked down? Jo must find out, and fast, whether there’s a real conspiracy: one that threatens the President.

Jo has brains, heart and a sense of humor. She’s a California girl who hates earthquakes, loves The Sopranos, and thinks rock climbing is the ideal way to relax. And she’s from San Francisco. It’s a beautiful and tumultuous city that was destroyed by an earthquake a hundred years ago, and that today lives again on the verge of devastation, waiting for The Big One. And Jo wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Kirkus’s Mystery and Thriller Review has called Jo a “rock climber, monkey wrangler, and confessor extraordinaire.” I love that. I hope you’ll like Jo, and the novel. It’s a white-knuckle ride. I want you to hold on for dear life, all the way to the end.

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