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The Dirty Secrets Club (Jo Beckett) Hardcover – June 12, 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Jo Beckett Novels Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An intelligent and stubborn heroine who's just emotionally vulnerable enough to be empathetic lifts this novel from Gardiner (China Lake), a Californian now living in London making her U.S. debut. Dr. Jo Beckett, a forensic psychiatrist (or deadshrinker), performs psychological autopsies to uncover the truths behind grisly crimes. Recruited to consult on the possible suicide of prosecutor Callie Harding, who drove her BMW off a San Francisco bridge and struck an airport minivan on the road below, Jo discovers this accident is the latest in a string of high profile murder-suicides. As Jo and the SFPD's Lt. Amy Tang dig deeper, they uncover the Dirty Secrets Club, a shadowy group of citizens whose members include a noted fashion designer and a football star, both of whom committed very public suicides. Still coming to terms with her doctor husband's recent death, Jo struggles to pinpoint the club's origins, realizing that a former member may be systematically driving the remaining members to their deaths. Gardiner should win new fans on this side of the Atlantic with this adrenaline-filled thriller. (June)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* San Francisco forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett doesn’t cut open victims’ bodies. She dissects their lives. It’s her professional duty to determine why the dead get dead. This time around, Beckett just might be in over her head. Residents of San Francisco, already edgy from recent earthquake tremors, have become further unhinged by a series of provocative—and very public—murder-suicides. They’re tied to the Dirty Secrets Club, a group that promises anonymity to high-profile citizens aching to confess their sins. U.S. Attorney Callie Harding was the driving force behind the club until the night she drove her BMW off a city overpass, ending her life and those of three others. The word dirty was scrawled in red lipstick across her upper thigh, a clue that ultimately leads Beckett and diminutive SFPD detective Amy Tang to a sadistic psychopath with vengeance on his mind. Beckett and Tang are close to collaring the culprit when Jo receives a threatening letter detailing a dark secret of her own. This is the U.S. debut for Gardiner, an American who makes her home in London. Stephen King has raved about her in print, and she proves more than worthy of that praise in this twister of a tale teeming with thrills and chills. --Allison Block

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Product Details

  • Series: Jo Beckett
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (June 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525950664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525950660
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,578,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This novel kept me turning the pages so rapidly that I didn't actually stop to analyse the story. Which is probably a good thing: I'm not convinced that the various elements hang together well enough to provide a totally satisfying whole. Does it matter? Well, not to me. I was looking for an escapist novel and this book delivered.

There is a lot of action in this novel: not always coherent and not always believable. That will matter to some readers, and ordinarily it matters to me. But sometimes, it is good to suspend reality and just hop onto the rollercoaster.

Jo Beckett is a forensic psychiatrist who profiles victim's lives in order to try to help solve their deaths. Lieutenant Amy Tang calls Jo Beckett to the crime scene after a high speed pursuit in San Francisco ends with four people dead and five injured. So, why did Callie Harding drive her car through a bridge railing? What is the Dirty Secrets Club, and what can Jo do to try to prevent what appear to be a related series of murder/suicides by high profile people? Jo herself looks to be an interesting character as do many of the other `good guys' in this novel.

This was the first Meg Gardiner novel I've read, and it probably won't be the last. I'm intrigued without (yet) being totally hooked.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Format: Hardcover
Like a lot of readers, I decided to read Meg Gardiner's work at the recommendation of Stephen King, who has described her as "just as good as Michael Connelly" and the next "superstar of suspense." I've now read two of Gardiner's books, and I now wonder if King and I are reading the same author.

Gardiner is certainly a talented wordsmith, but her plots are so outlandish that I find myself rolling my eyes in disbelief. At least in CHINA LAKE, her debut novel, she had a likable main character and a good sense of pacing. But in THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB, her most recent standalone novel, she offers neither.

The title of THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB pretty much explains the plot: it involves a group of rich and powerful individuals who decide to share their dirty laundry with one another. Why they are stupid enough to do this is not convincingly explained. Unsuprisingly, someone begins blackmailing members of the group, many of whom start dying shortly thereafter. It is up to forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett, Garidner's heroine, to get to the bottom of all this mayhem.

There is very little about THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB that I liked. The plot is languidly paced, and there are very few suspenseful scenes. Beckett is a bland, cookie-cutter type of heroine that I felt little affection for. The supporting characters mainly consist of stereotypes, and most of their dialog is flat and trite.

The plot of THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB also contains a lot of silly events and coincidences. For example, the main villain is in police custody in a certain scene, only to have a major earthquake strike the city at precisely the right moment! The lights in the room then black out entirely, and he's able to conveniently slip out in the darkness.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am really struggling to figure out how other reviewers found this book to be such a page turner. I bought this book on the strength of the user reviews that I read here at Amazon and to say I was disappointed would be putting it lightly. The most disappointing part of reading the book was that there was never a moment of intensity, suspense, thrills - just nada, nothing!!

I'll start off with a discovery about the Kindle version of the book. Another reviewer noted that the Kindle version does not have the same page breaks in the chapter to show you that the author is changing subjects. There is that issue along with other formatting problems in the Kindle version and that is no fault of the author's. I actually emailed Kindle support and they are forwarding those findings on to the publisher, so hopefully that issue will be corrected for future readers. (I have read many Kindle books and have never seen that issue before.)

Now, on to the story. The one positive that I can give the author is that she has obviously done her research on different fields from psychiatry to para-jumper research and rescue missions, as well as the other "jobs" that are introduced to the story. She is obviously very intelligent and I can appreciate that in an author. However, that's where the positives stop.


I was truly baffled by how there is a secret club of people with dirty secrets who are supposedly willing to die to save their secret, but then they share the secret with anyone who's willing to listen. It was bizarre that a character kills himself in hopes that no one finds out his secret, but then he reveals his secret in his suicide note.
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By AK on June 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A series of strange deaths requires forensic psychologist Jo Beckett to delve into a world hidden beneath San Francisco's psyche where she will discover the tie that mentally binds these victims together. They were all members of the Dirty Secrets Club, a place where nothing was too shocking, indeed, perhaps some things were not shocking enough, to confess. As her frenetic, yet methodical, quest to end the terror continues, Jo finds herself an unwilling member of the club, and thus, a potential victim. Now, she's fighting not only for the dead and for those who might join them, but to save herself as well.

**** Raw tension undergirds almost every page of this gripping thriller that takes you into a twisted maze of psychological suspense. Thanks to shows like Bones or series like Patricia Cornwall's, we are familiar with forensics, but I did not know about the psychiatric aspect of the science. It is by far more fascinating, making this a series that has greater potential than Kay Scarpetta's to seize the reader's imaginations and keep them up at night with all the lights on full force. ****
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