Meg Gardiner’s Phantom Instinct: Trust, And Other Fleeting Ideas

A shoot out explodes into action at a club, opening the thrilling latest novel by Meg Gardiner in mid frame. The violence seems random, but organized, and bartender Harper Flynn watches her boyfriend Drew die in front of her. In the months that follow, Flynn tries to unravel the why and who of the violence, recognizing that law officers Aiden Garrison and Erika Sorenstam may be her only hope of finding out the truth. But the evil that stalks them is close, rabid, and about to strike.

Gardiner’s prose is descriptive without bogging down, painting a picture of each of her characters, yet maintaining a forward-leaning thriller that has us on the edge of our seats. Our gradual unwrapping of Flynn’s persona leads us into a conflict that has been sedentary for nearly twenty years, but that paints a picture of systematic fear mongering and violence that seems just believable enough to be true. Like Chevy Stevens’ That Night, to understand the flow of the story and its motivations, we must see the perspective of a bully.

One of the most interesting side stories of the thriller is the effects of the club massacre on Garrison, who has developed what he calls “Fregoli syndrome,” (or Fregoli delusion), which causes him to think he sees someone but it is really someone else. This lingering effect of the violence at the club leaves him stripped of his role as a law officer, his ability to process information correctly at times, and periodically, his sanity. But he believes Flynn when she realizes there was an unidentified third shooter in the club, and aids her in trying to track the man down.

The majority of the action takes places after we the readers know that Flynn is telling the truth, but no one believes her (outside of Garrison). Things get complicated when more aspects of Flynn’s past come to light, in factual information and in people from her past, but she is determined to make things right once and for all, even if she puts herself in harms way. If Lee Child wrote standalone novels, instead of the Jack Reacher series, I imagine they would unfold this way, with little nuggets of truth being revealed over the chapters and a pot boiling climax that explodes with violence in a satisfactory ending (that still leaves us open to a sequel).

Gardiner has delivered an exciting thriller, just in time for the beach, or wherever you need a book to get you excited about reading, to keep you cheering the underdog fighting against her past for what her future could be.


About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at,, and the brand new
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