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Phantom Instinct

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In Edgar Award winning author Meg Gardiner’s new stand-alone thriller, an injured cop and an ex-thief hunt down a killer nobody else believes exists.

When shots ring out in a crowded L.A. club, bartender Harper Flynn watches helplessly as her boyfriend, Drew, is gunned down in the cross fire. Then somebody throws a Molotov cocktail, and the club is quickly engulfed in flames. L.A. Sheriff Deputy Aiden Garrison sees a gunman in a hoodie and gas mask taking aim at Harper, but before he can help her a wall collapses, bringing the building down and badly injuring him.

A year later, Harper is trying to rebuild her life. She has quit her job and gone back to college. Meanwhile, the investigation into the shoot-out has been closed. The two gunmen were killed when the building collapsed.

Certain that a third gunman escaped and is targeting the survivors, Harper enlists the help of Aiden Garrison, the only person willing to listen. But the traumatic brain injury he suffered has cut his career short and left him with Fregoli syndrome, a rare type of face blindness that causes the delusion that random people are actually a single person changing disguises.

As Harper and Aiden delve into the case, Harper realizes that her presence during the attack was no coincidence—and that her only ally is unstable, mistrustful of her, and seeing the same enemy everywhere he looks.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published June 25, 2014

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About the author

Meg Gardiner

31 books1,801 followers
Meg Gardiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of sixteen thrillers. Heat 2, her latest novel, is a prequel/sequel to the film Heat, co-authored with the film’s writer/director, Michael Mann. Booklist’s starred review calls it “Riveting… the fully fleshed human stories support and even transcend the often-breathtaking action.” The Associated Press says, “Slick as a Neil McCauley heist and as intense as a Vincent Hanna chase, ‘Heat 2’ is just dynamite.” It debuted at #1 on the NYT best seller list.

UNSUB, the first novel in her series featuring FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, won the 2018 Barry Award for Best Thriller. The Dark Corners of the Night, the most recent UNSUB thriller, was bought by Amazon Studios for development as an hour-long television drama.

Meg is the author of the Evan Delaney series, the Jo Beckett novels, and several stand alones. China Lake won the 2009 Edgar award for Best Paperback Original. The Nightmare Thief won the 2012 Audie Award for Thriller/Suspense audiobook of the year. Phantom Instinct was one of O, the Oprah magazine's "Best Books of Summer."

Meg was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. A graduate of Stanford Law School, she practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She's also a three-time Jeopardy! champion. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Find Meg on Facebook: Facebook.com/MegGardinerBooks Twitter: @MegGardiner1 and Instagram: @Meggardiner1.

* Evan Delaney
* Jo Beckett

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539 (32%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 227 reviews
Profile Image for Cheri.
507 reviews73 followers
August 15, 2017
Yup, I did it. I gave this book 5 stars. This was my first read by MG. I was blown away by it. She had me hooked by the first chapter. By the last few chapters my head was doing an Exorcist spin. I loved the strength of the h and the determination of the H. I wish she would do a series with these two or at least one more book. Great mystery, suspense, action and a spot of romance. Very unique plot. I look forward to reading more by this author.
Profile Image for Bill.
1,619 reviews75 followers
July 31, 2019
Phantom Instinct by Meg Gardiner is a standalone thriller. I've previously read the first books in Gardiner's Evan Delaney and Jo Beckett series. Both were entertaining. Phantom Instinct starts off with a bang and rarely lets its foot off the gas pedal. It's not perfect by any means and like most thrillers it can be a bit out there and far-fetched, but it entertains and is a page turner.

Harper Flynn is the hero of this story. As a child, she lived with a drunken mother who got her hooked up with a gang of teenage thieves run by Travis Maddox's father. (You will meet Travis) Harper managed to escape from this life, spent time in juvenile detention, joined the Navy, became a cryptologist, Russian translator and now is working on her degree. The story starts in the near past where Harper, working as a bartender at a bar called Xenon, is shot up by two or three people. In the melee Harper's boyfriend Drew is killed and police officer Aidan Garrison is seriously injured. This injury causes brain damage and a rare disorder causing delusions that random people are actually the same person (the one who shot him) in disguise. Of course, he can no longer be a cop because he is too dangerous.

Harper now realizes that she is being followed by her previous gang members and she believes one of them, Zero, was the third shooter at Xenon. Garrison believes her but is an unreliable source. Garrison's ex- partner, Erika Sorenstam, has strong doubts and remains cynical when she is approached by the two. Events conspire to increase her doubts about both the story and about Harper and Aidan's reliability.

So this unlikely duo make a partnership to try and find this third shooter and to prove they are right. Of course, because of both of their issues, Harper's past and Aidan's condition, they have to develop trust in each other and this is severely tested many times.

It's an interesting story that winds and twists with lots of curve balls thrown your way to confuse you. There is lots of action and also skilled, dangerous enemies, including Zero's scary dog. Who can you trust? Can even Harper and Aidan trust each other? If you want a fast-paced, twisty - turny, entertaining thriller to curl up with, this is a pretty good option. (3.5 stars)
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,111 reviews2,668 followers
June 19, 2014
Harper Flynn usually enjoyed her late night shift behind the bar, but this particular night there were literally hundreds of people milling about – her boyfriend Drew had just arrived through the back entrance and while talking to him, she suddenly noticed something terribly out of place in the crowded bar. Coming down the stairs were three men, hooded and wearing masks – the scariest sight was the vision of guns in their hands.

With shots ringing out across the room, panic immediately ensued. As screaming people tried to get away, Drew was shot in the back – trying to save him, she spotted two Los Angeles police officers in the melee. Suddenly a Molotov cocktail was thrown, fire erupted and with an almighty crash, the building collapsed – the dead and wounded were everywhere….

One year later, grief was still a part of Harper’s life. But she was gradually moving forward – studying in college for a more positive future. But the past just wouldn’t go away – with the investigation officially closed as the bodies of two gunmen were found, the only people who believed there was another gunman were Harper and a very damaged L.A. Sheriff Deputy Aiden Garrison. Aiden was on sick leave with a form of brain damage called Fregoli syndrome, which caused him to see the bad guy in every face he saw – it didn’t occur often, but when it did, it was quite devastating, both to him, and the person he attempted to arrest.

Harper tried to enlist the help of Aiden’s ex-partner, Erika Sorenstam, but she didn’t believe there was a third gunman either; even though she was there that night, she hadn’t seen the shooters – it seemed they were on their own. But Harper wondered if she was paranoid – was she being followed? Hadn’t she seen that vicious, scarred dog before? With Aiden unsure whether he trusted Harper, she decided to push on, regardless. The danger, the evil and the secrets from her past were suddenly catching up to her – she was in dreadful danger from a killer determined he would never be found…

This incredibly fast paced thriller was packed with action to the very last page. The twist toward the end shocked me – I definitely didn’t see it coming! And the ending wasn’t at all like I was expecting either. Highly recommended for lovers of a good action thriller, Meg Gardiner’s new novel is a thoroughly enjoyable book!

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy to read and review.
Profile Image for Veronica .
748 reviews177 followers
August 28, 2018
I read and loved UNSUB by this author when I read it earlier this year so I immediately went out in search of her other works. I settled on this one because it's a standalone and I was looking for something that didn't carry a potential series commitment with it. This was a good book but not great, not on the same level as Unsub, in my opinion And that's okay. This is an earlier work by the author and so it's reasonable for it to feel like one. The characters were interesting but some of the relationship dynamics were unnecessary and muddied when they didn't need to be. Pacing also felt like an issue to me. The race to save one of the characters lasted the entire final third of the book. It just went on too long and felt overly drawn out. And now we come to the ending...which left some loose ends. If this were a series that'd be okay, expected even but, it's not. It's a standalone, albeit one with an ending that lacks closure. I'll still be on the lookout for other works by this author and I'll most definitely be reading the second book in the Unsub series.
Profile Image for Tim.
2,134 reviews201 followers
October 21, 2016
I did not care for this at all. When I reached the end I thought, that's it? Then I thought, good! It's over and thanks for putting me out of my misery.
1 of 10 stars
Profile Image for ☕️Kimberly  (Caffeinated Reviewer).
3,039 reviews650 followers
July 21, 2014
Five reasons to grab an iced coffee and curl up with Phantom Instinct:

1. Phantom Instinct is a heart-stopping mystery with twists and turns that will keep you flipping the pages until the wee hours of the night. Harper Flynn is a college student working as a bartender when all hell breaks loose as gunman take out patrons and her boyfriend becomes caught in the crossfire. Then the unthinkable happens and a Molotov cocktail is thrown into the crowd. L.A. Sheriff, Aiden Garrison sees a gunman taking aim at Harper, but a collapsing wall badly injures him. The tale moves forward a year The police consider the case closed believing both shooters died in the fire, but Harper know there was a third shooter and he is still out there. The tale that unfolds reveals secrets and deadly games.

2. Harper is a fearless heroine with a multitude of badass skills. Harper is a curiosity from her mad skills to her tenacious need to seek the truth, and protect. Her kick-ass, take no prisoners’ attitude made her character one I easily rooted for. Gardnier did a wonderful job of relaying Harper's back-story and endearing her to the reader.

3. Our hero Aiden Garrison has suffered a traumatic brain injury ,as a result his injuries from the night of the fire. He too believes there was a third shooter but spent months in the hospital recovering and sadly, not even his partner thinks the third shooter is real. His career was cut short when he was diagnosed with Fregoli syndrome. A rare disorder that makes him suspect total strangers are actually someone else in disguise. Aiden is strong, proud, determined, and I enjoyed interactions with him. While Harper gets most of the spotlight Aiden is a powerful presence.

4. Gardiner created strong, exciting and colorful secondary characters from Aiden’s partner to the perps behind the shooting. While they were not as developed as Aiden and Flynn, Gardiner brought them to life and gave them each a distinct voice. She tied characters, places and events together seamlessly weaving in all of the players.

5. Action, suspense, creepiness and goose bumps are all wrapped into Phantom Instinct. The main plot is unraveling and stopping the third shooter and the diabolical plan that is in play, but we get a slow-building sweet romance that enhances the reader’s enjoyment. The ending was intense with nail-biting action that had me trying to catch my breath. Gardiner made it feel very realistic and did not squelch on the details.

Copy received from publisher in exchange for unbiased review. This review was originally posted at Caffeinated Book Reviewer
Profile Image for Kirsten .
1,594 reviews255 followers
January 9, 2016
A nicely paced and interesting thriller. I had trouble following all that happened in Harper Flynn's past, but the ending and denoument was very satisfying.
Profile Image for Kris - My Novelesque Life.
4,643 reviews190 followers
May 3, 2019

After listening to Gardiner's Unsub series (UNSUB: Book 1 and Into the Black Nowhere: Book 2) I really needed another gritty suspense audiobook. After such an emotional and suspense high I decided to try another Gardiner book and went with this standalone novel. I did not want to commit to another series so it seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, I found that the plot and characters in this book were very forgettable. I would get distracted easily, and instead of rewinding it I would just let move forward. This was due to not feeling like I really missed anything, and did not want to re-listen. I don't know if I would have finished this one if it wasn't on audio, as I found it slow and wasn't rushing to pick it up. I am not sure if it is because the Unsub novels were so great and this pales in comparison or it just wasn't to my liking.

My Novelesque Blog
Profile Image for Lisa.
754 reviews
September 20, 2015
Phantom Instinct by Meg gardiner is the first book i have read by this author & i enjoyed it it got me in from the first page & kept me turning right to the last the story starts when Harper Flynn works as a bar tender in xenon bar when 3 men walk in one with a molotov cocktail & sets fire to the place harpers boyfriend drew gets dragged out by Harper during all the commotion but dies so Harper enlists the help of former detective aiden Garrison's help but one problem he suffers from fregoli Syndrome which prevents him recognising faces. Piper Drew's sister is kidnapped by the Maddox brothers against her will she is hurt by them wrists cut now its up to Piper & Aiden to work out who the 3rd gunman is?
Profile Image for Mia.
291 reviews38 followers
July 24, 2014
A shooting and a deliberate fire set at an L.A. Club resulted in the deaths of many, including Harper Flynn's boyfriend, Drew. Harper and Detective Aiden Garrison saw three gunmen, the third one being responsible for shooting Drew and throwing the Molotov cocktail that started the fire. Unfortunately, in the chaos that ensued, nobody else saw the third gunman. The presence of a drug lord at the club, the discovery of the bodies of the two gunmen, and with all the evidence burned in the fire, the L.A. Sheriff's Department considered the case closed.

One year after the tragedy, Harper is on the mend, slowly coming to terms with Drew's death. Aiden Garrison is on the mend, too, from the physical and psychological injuries he suffered that night. Aiden suffers from Fregoli syndrome, a type of face blindness that negatively impacts his credibility.

But neither Harper nor Aiden can forget about the third gunman that only they saw that night. When they started working together, Harper realized it might not have been a drug-related shooting after all and that she might have been the true intended target. A past that she thought she had long put behind her is fast catching up to her rebuilt life and putting that new life and everything she cares about in danger.

How Much Do I Enjoy Meg Gardiner's books? Let me count the ways:

One: Her books, such as PHANTOM INSTINCT, are touted as thrillers and they certainly are. You'll find intrigue, mystery, conspiracy and suspense in such abundance you barely have time to breathe. This book is particularly high octane, moving from opening line to cardiac arrest excitement in about three pages. It is like the Bugatti Veyron of books.

Her books also always have a twist-- a left hook, a sucker punch, a 180 turn. You live for it, eagerly anticipate it, know it's coming. But not what it will consist of. And Meg Gardiner always delivers a doozy. This book is no exception.

Two: Her writing style is immensely readable. I don't mean to imply it's sophomoric. Far from it. Her books are deceivingly easy to read. She deconstructs complex scenarios for the purpose of having them understood. She elucidates rather than obfuscates which some writers are prone to do, no doubt basking in their own cleverness but not as effective in terms of accessibility. This is also not to imply that she underestimates her readers. Rather, she wants the reader right alongside her, following the plot and characters. The pace is, as I've mentioned, breathtaking which only serves to make you appreciate her clear and crisp writing.

Three: Her books are informative and seem thoroughly researched. Her ability to more than adequately explain something reveals a depth of knowledge, the information provided rings true. I was taught that the inability to explain something –even the most complex matters-- in such manner as to have most people understand it indicates lack of true knowledge. Whether she's describing a place, profession, disease or procedure, Gardiner demonstrates a skill in deconstructing, dissecting and explaining.

Four: She writes compelling characters, regardless of which side of the moral divide they fall on. No caricatures here.

Her protagonists are capable, self-aware females who unquestionably act on their own agency. They exercise a sense of ownership over their strengths as well as their weaknesses and most especially their decisions and actions. They are not comic book superheroes born to save the world. Rather, they are women with histories --good and bad-- faced with the ordinary and extraordinary circumstances of life. The people around them, the secondary characters, serve more than a decorative or convenient purpose, having a sense of agency of their own. Her antagonists are more fearsome for their being realistic. Gardiner writes thrillers set in our time, in cities similar to where we live, with villains who may plausibly and credibly live in our midst.

Five: Her books are more than thrillers. In PHANTOM INSTINCT, Gardiner also carves out a tale of survival and endurance, something that may be referred to as a human interest story in journalism. She also sketches a blueprint of romance, not of the sappy, fanciful, glamorized version, but seemingly grounded and authentic, tested by real-life challenges. Then there's the philosophical bent of her books-- an exploration of the psychology of pain and loss and harrowing emotions, how people respond to tragedy in a multitude of ways. When she presents the scenarios of her fictional story, she is the best of snake oil salesmen and I am the willing buyer of her wares.

Six: PHANTOM INSTINCT contained the following lines which thoroughly resonated with me: “Grief wasn't a feeling. It was a thing that visited. It was a weight, a lead wall, and it pressed on her lungs and settled a shadow across her mind, until the only way she could inhale was through a gasp of anger.” For this line alone, Meg Gardiner deserves all the compliments I can give her.

I can keep going but that might prove too embarrassing-- for her and for me! Suffice it to say that there is a reason I've been reading her books for almost a decade now. She never fails to entertain and satisfy on so many levels. PHANTOM INSTINCT is barely over 350 pages but Meg Gardiner packs a lot in those pages and reading it never feels like a slog. From CHINA LAKE, her first book, to PHANTOM INSTINCT, Meg Gardiner is my thriller dealer that has never failed to supply me with a high quality fix.
Profile Image for Maureen DeLuca.
1,039 reviews32 followers
May 11, 2018
So many people liked this more than I did- had some trouble following the plot a few times.... then my eyes glazed over words......... oh well....
Profile Image for Cheryl.
5,147 reviews187 followers
June 22, 2014
I love when an author that I have not read for a while comes back and surprises me. From the beginning there was not a dull moment in this book. I have to say that my favorite person in this book was Aiden. This condition brought such dimension to his character and the story. I had never heard of Fregoli syndrome.

A brief explanation of this condition courtesy of Wikipedia: The Fregoli delusion, or the delusion of doubles, is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that different people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise. The syndrome may be related to a brain lesion and is often of a paranoid nature, with the delusional person believing themselves persecuted by the person they believe is in disguise.

So having this element in the story just added to it. While I thought the romance was fine between Harper and Aiden, it was predictable. Also, I did not like that Harper right away fell for Aiden. I mean, she barely new him and she was kissing him. Otherwise, I really liked this book.
Profile Image for Darlene Quinn.
Author 7 books314 followers
August 17, 2017
Have made it a habit to read a book by a novel I have not read previously. Meg Gardiner is now on my prefered author lists for page turning suspense and strong characters.
Profile Image for Debbie.
540 reviews76 followers
July 26, 2018
Hmmmm so.....I could not finish this. 94 pages in and I had no interest—too much high tech stuff plus I don’t know if I am having a stroke or what, but I simply could not seem to follow this plot. And I must add that I like this author so it will not stop me from reading more by her but....not this one.
Profile Image for Linda Sherman.
22 reviews
June 9, 2020
Meg Gardiner keeps you on the edge of your seat. I enjoyed this thriller which had a surprise twist at the end. I did not see that coming. I enjoyed seeing her at an author's talk recently. She had just released her third Unsub novel. I will now start the second in that series.
Profile Image for Amy.
162 reviews
September 10, 2016
Harper and Aiden are both devastated in different ways by the fire/shooting spree at the Xenon club. Both of them swear there was a third shooter, nobody wants to believe them. Harper is a former juvenile delinquent and Aiden suffered a traumatic brain injury that makes him think he sees the third shooter everywhere and impedes his ability to recognize faces. It really doesn't matter that Aiden was a cop. Anyway...everything that happened that night and the following year seems to be an act of revenge against Harper. And the twist at the end was as unexpected as it was unrealistic. I didn't love this book, but I won't write off the author.
Profile Image for Amy.
445 reviews44 followers
February 10, 2015
Meh. Really meh. Our whole book club agreed that the story line had a lot of potential, but became very convoluted with lots of loose ends and unexplained aspects. I personally didn't like the style of writing either. I felt that it was like reading a screenplay for a big budget action/adventure film, with lots of cuts from here to there and overly detailed information about outrageous and unbelievable situations and heroics. So, again I say, meh.
Profile Image for Penelope.
559 reviews
October 10, 2014
I had to struggle to finish this. So boring. Too bad, as I have liked her other books.
Profile Image for Karen San Diego.
157 reviews
April 28, 2016
I have added China Lake and The Dirty Secrets Club to my shelf some months ago but I never got around to it, mostly because of lack of interest. That said, I have never read Meg Gardiner before. I see she’s being highly promoted by the King himself, saying she’s the ‘next suspense superstar

“If you read Sue Grafton, Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, or Nelson DeMille, you’re going to think Meg Gardiner is a gift from heaven.”
- Stephen King

Gardiner is also an Edgar Award winner, so there’s no doubt about her writing prowess. I just had to read a more interesting plot outline… and then I found Phantom Instinct.

When shots ring out in a crowded L.A. club, bartender Harper Flynn watches helplessly as her boyfriend, Drew, is gunned down in the cross fire. Then somebody throws a Molotov cocktail, and the club is quickly engulfed in flames. L.A. Sheriff Deputy Aiden Garrison sees a gunman in a hoodie and gas mask taking aim at Harper, but before he can help her a wall collapses, bringing the building down and badly injuring him.

A year later, Harper is trying to rebuild her life. She has quit her job and gone back to college. Meanwhile, the investigation into the shoot-out has been closed. The two gunmen were killed when the building collapsed.

Certain that a third gunman escaped and is targeting the survivors, Harper enlists the help of Aiden Garrison, the only person willing to listen. But the traumatic brain injury he suffered has cut his career short and left him with Fregoli syndrome, a rare type of face blindness that causes the delusion that random people are actually a single person changing disguises.

As Harper and Aiden delve into the case, Harper realizes that her presence during the attack was no coincidence—and that her only ally is unstable, mistrustful of her, and seeing the same enemy everywhere he looks.

I have no idea how to describe the different styles of narrative but one thing that put this off the commoners is the teasing abstract and the ability of the author to put promise into action so effectively. It’s not WYSIWYG, in this novel, you get more than just what you see, and that makes a big difference. The vocabulary is broad but everytime she uses complicated words or terminologies, she goes through lengths to help the readers understand what it means. She doesn’t leave her readers groping for dictionaries or anything. She invites them to a ride and takes them along.

Fregoli Syndrome is very interesting; I admit that’s the primary reason I decided I wanted to read it right away. Patients with Fregoli Syndrome think that the people around them are capable of changing their appearance, dress, and gender in a few instants, with only nearly imperceptible clues to their real identity. It is the delusional belief that one or more familiar persons, usually persecutors following the patient, repeatedly change their appearance. Meg Gardiner did her research exceptionally well; and adding to the fact that I am a Psychology student, the elaborated concept of this syndrome was well-explained and easily understood. I did not only enjoy the story; I also learned a lot.

It was easy to establish connection with the story. Aside from the fact that the characters were well-conceived and amazingly portrayed, the events in the story may well be nonfictional accounts. For me, at least, the plot was realistic.

The characters are the core of this novel. Harper Flynn, our heroine, is very well-developed. She watched her lover die slowly in her arms. She watched the horror uncovering in front of her with the strength of an iron. A year later, we see that she hasn’t been overwhelmed by grief or haunted by the events in Xenon (the bar). That’s what I like about a character: he/she doesn’t let the past experiences or traumatic events define him/her. She was stained by the events, alright, but she never broke down and never once did she take time to relive the moments cowering in a corner and crying her eyes out. Harper is a strong heroine; her past is intricate and intriguing, and what happened to her at Xenon only made her tougher and more formidable opponent. Although she had problems, she never turned to be a damsel in distress; she was always willing to take up her burdens alone. By being a strong character, she didn’t burden the readers with her troubles. It was fun watching her evolve through the pages.

Aiden Garrison was a detective with the LA Sheriff’s Department. He was one of the two officers who got trapped in the shootout in Xenon one year ago. Searching for his partner through the haze, he saw Harper instead, and a gunman walking towards her. He was about to save her, when the floor crumbled beneath him, taking him with it. He suffered multiple physical injuries, and one year later he still walked with a limp. The worst part was the injury to the brain. It caused him Fregoli Syndrome. One year later, he was paranoid, deluded, with certain behavioral and memory problems that rendered him forever incapacitated. The police didn’t trust his account of what happened the night of the shootout, and therefore didn’t believe him that there was a third shooter.

Few years ago, I watched this movie Faces in the Crowd, it was about another kind of facial recognition syndrome. She totally cannot recognize faces. She doesn’t know how her boyfriend looks like, how she looks like. I don’t know, but I expected this would be the case with Aiden, but apparently I was wrong. He did recognize faces. There were just certain moments, usually after a trigger, when he would be convinced that someone he just happened to see was the third shooter. His situation totally grabbed my attention. His unpredictability was suspense in itself. I often wondered when the syndrome would attack; I was constantly on the lookout for triggers. Whenever he was on the scene, I felt like he was a bomb waiting to explode any time. It was absolutely tricky and awesome.

And there was Erika Sorenstam. She was Aiden’s former partner, the other one who was with him in the bar when the shootout happened. She presented a rather titillating character to me; much because I didn’t know whether she was friend or foe, she was very hard to read. The cool gaze and neutral expression came across to me as pretentious, and it led me to believe that there was an underlying mystery there somewhere. She was hostile towards Aiden, dismissing his statements as paranoid accounts, and often indifferent towards Harper. Never once did she annoy me, however; I just found myself wondering about the why behind her behavior. And then halfway, we come to find out the answer – besides being Aiden’s former partner, she was also a former lover.

Another secondary character is Oscar Sierra. He was another figure from Harper’s dark past. He was a very experienced hacker. He performs ‘magic’ with computers. When he comes to Harper for help, the tension escalates. Not only was he a genius; he was a kid at heart, quirky and he helped mellow the dark aspects of the story. Piper is Drew’s little sister. She is very close to Harper’s heart. Her enthusiasm and, sometimes, sorrow, were contagious. Everyone held a very well-thought of role in the story.

It wasn’t hard to care for the characters. The emotions covering the plot were contagious. Not only will you feel uncertain of a character’s reliability, afraid of Aiden’s impulsive outbursts, surprised by a sudden turn of event, entertained by the realistic dialogues, thrilled by the action and impending doom – you may also feel the loss, the grief and sorrow, the anger, and even the romantic aspect surrounding Harper, Aiden and Erika.

Now there was no question about the pace. The action took off from the start, when Harper first saw the third shooter, supposedly, at Drew’s (her dead boyfriend) first death anniversary. She decided then to go to Aiden. And Aiden was an intrigue from the beginning, so it was not hard to endure even just the friendly exchanges between them. The moment they came into contact, the problems begin to arise: the mystery of the existence of the third shooter, the manifestation of the Fregoli, Erika Sorenstam’s offensive attitude towards them, and Suzannah’s history. At times I felt like I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

The hike to climax was unbearably thrilling. Going to the rendezvous, entering into the area and executing their game plan, I was breathless with cruel anticipation. Not only that; even as the amazing plot was unfolding, the characters and the emotionally-charged atmosphere were grinding their way into my senses in no time. At one point, specifically that scene at the tunnel, my heart broke. Meg Gardiner was that good.

The climax is sensational. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been that excited and nervous at the same time just by reading. I didn’t see the twist coming; it was totally unpredictable. Several times I found myself wishing that the events could unfold faster to spare me the ache of suspense.

The conclusion was astonishing and even a bit brutal. However, when the action concluded, I found myself absolutely satisfied with how the things ended. It's one of those times when, after reading an exceptionally good stand-alone novel, I still find myself thinking about it sometimes, even while i'm reading a different one. Again, Meg Gardiner is that good.

A unique plot, exceptionally well-crafted characters, brilliant twists and a style unlike any other, Meg Gardiner's Phantom Instinct may well be her best novel, as deemed by many critics already. I am definitely reading more from this talented author. So, predictably, this is highly, highly recommended!
Profile Image for Laura (crofteereader).
922 reviews33 followers
August 19, 2019
This one was a wild ride. Impossible to believe, but if you turn off your reality meter, it's definitely fun and more than a little crazy.

Harper is hard to nail down - and not just because that's a necessity with the life she's had. She has so much really random knowledge and life experience for someone who is pretty young. I won't get too far into this because that would verge on spoilers, but the surprises just keep on coming with her.

Aiden doesn't feel like a real person. I think part of that is due to the traumatic brain injury that results in the most bizarre side effects I've ever heard of. At least it's something that comes into play multiple times throughout the story and isn't left to be something random and weird for one specific scene.

Honestly, read this book for the seesaw of death at the very end when there are 4 people and a dog balancing on a platform where one wrong move would tilt the floor and kill literally all of them. It's like something out of Scooby-Doo or Indiana Jones but with a realistic level of tension and characters who are not unaware of how ridiculous it is.
Profile Image for Laura.
850 reviews13 followers
November 26, 2019
A good, fast-paced thriller. I tried the audio version first but just didn’t care for the narrator. Having read other novels by Gardiner, though, I knew it probably wasn't the novel that was giving me difficulty so I switched to the print book and was able to enjoy the ride.
Profile Image for Amanda Kimball.
142 reviews2 followers
June 29, 2014
I won this as a First Reads giveaway, and it was just delivered, today. I will be reading it over the next few days, and posting a review. Thank you to GoodReads and the publisher :-)

I really enjoyed Harper's story and all of the twists and turns that came with it. I did feel for the characters and draw a connections with some of them. The writing was fast-paced and lively, and really kept me engaged. I read the book almost in one sitting.

What I really liked about the book was that it was filled with action. You didn't have to wait 3/4ths of the book to start after the bad guys and see something happening. You went along for the whole ride but it wasn't too quick or forced. I think it helped that this was a stand-alone novel with no background catchup to do as a reader. This made the story flow quickly and get to the "good stuff" faster.

I really liked the twist with Aiden's condition. Him not being able to tell reality from memory in with facial recognition was definitely a piece that kept me on edge through parts of the book. One of my favorite characters was Oscar, and I wish he had been given a more central part of the book, but can see why he wasn't. The actual "twist" in the book was great, and I didn't see it coming. It really changed the way the whole ending happened, and how the story ended up. If I could say anything, I'd say I wish it had a bit more closure, but am glad it's open for a sequel. I had never read anything by this author, and am glad to have had the chance through the Giveaways section of Goodreads. I will definitely give this author another shot in the future.
Profile Image for Robert Grant.
615 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2017
Another pulse pounder from this excellent writer. Really enjoy her style of writing and her plots move at blistering pace. Good stuff!!
Profile Image for Jonelle Patrick.
Author 6 books29 followers
July 27, 2016
Meg Gardiner isn’t just one of the best thriller writers out there, she’s one of the best writers, period. Phantom Instinct actually made me sorry that my plane from San Francisco was already landing in New York.

In her latest page-turner, a young woman who watched her lover’s life slip through her fingers in a rave club massacre teams up with the only other person who believes one of the gunmen got away – a cop whose career ended in that same firefight. A year after the tragedy, both of them are still walking wounded, and the only thing that will make them whole again is catching the killer who’s still out there.

Plot twists and action keep coming hard and fast, right up to the last page, but this book had me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning, because I badly wanted this new set of characters to live to fight another day. I’m tempted to give Phantom Instinct five stars, but because Gardiner’s books keep getting better and better, I’m going to hold out, hoping there’s lots more where this came from!
Profile Image for Kathie.
668 reviews11 followers
February 15, 2019
This started out interesting but then it became ridiculous and too implausible to the point it was comedic. I forced myself to finish it. Below are just the main problems:

1. Piper is a teen who lost her brother Drew in a mass shooting at a bar where he had gone to meet his girlfriend Harper (who survived). She knew Harper before Drews death and she and Harper became closer after the tragedy. At the end of the book their relationship was in essence all a lie because Zero (villain) had brainwashed Piper. Not only did Piper blame Harper for his death but Piper was able to fool everyone into thinking she was friends with Harper, when she hated her. Also, she did all these manipulative actions to appear hurt and kidnapped....this is a normal girl who suddenly wanted violence to not only Harper but the 2 cops on the scene that night. Not to mention no one but piper knows she’s missing. 🙄 it felt like the author used this to manipulate the situation but it was not believable that a normal middle class teen is suddenly a hard criminal who hates a friend.

2. The case was closed . Erica adamantly denies the possibility of a 3rd shooter at the club even though Aiden (ericas partner at the scene) corroborated her story.

3 there’s a cloud of suspicion that Drew setup Harper but it’s dropped about halfway through.

4. Erica figures out the entire plot when she hears a phrase uttered on the phone. She doesn’t have all the puzzle pieces but is suddenly realizes that there were 3 people at the club and figures out the whole klunky and massive revenge plot? And she does this speeding along a highway with Oscar?

5. When they are going to the location for the kidnapping Aiden is disguised as Oscar as the trade for Piper; yet, Erica brings Oliver. Why? That would never happen. And Erica would bring fellow officers in and not go all John Wayne. When she does call in the boss suddenly threatens her. This makes no sense.

6. Why are there a bunch of half baked romance lines in this? There’s no chemistry between Aiden and his partner. Then in the last third they were former lovers who were still in love? why is this relevant? She’s there as a cop and thinks she’s rescuing a teenaged kidapping victim. Not only that but Aiden and Harper hook up and he doesn’t seem conflicted. When Erica is killed no one seems upset, in particular Aiden who should have felt something for a coworker. Then at the very end of the book after it’s all over he’s talking to Harper (and knows it’s her) and suddenly he’s calling her Erica and that he loves her? I’m not sure what that was for.

7. Erica goes against orders to chase the bad guys alone even threatening her career. She doesn’t know someone to help? Where is her partner? Not Aiden. He’s been off on medical leave for a year.

8. The scene at the abandoned warehouse...that whole thing...I kept rolling my eyes.

Let’s begin with the 3 save the day people are a rogue cop, a cop on medical leave who had a traumatic brain injury not to mention a limp and a civilian (a college kid). Zero the villain/evil genius, who wasn’t much older than Harper had gone to prison for a past crime and is now an educated business man high up in a security business whose using company resources to track down some young girl, Harper, for a revenge plot that sounded like something out of a comic book. I really wasn’t able to make sense of it. Couldn’t figure out the timeline but it seemed a bit fantastical. And seriously, an excon thug was hired as a upper level businessman in a security company? Um no. Anyway, evil genius is a security expert and he had his trap at an abandoned building That he didn’t secure. Umm. What? 🤷‍♀️

Harper was supposed to bring Oscar but that gets dropped out of the plot line as if the author forgot that because zero never asks where Oscar was once they get to the abandoned building.

Harper, Erica and Aiden sneak into the warehouse from the back. Zero knew when she arrived but didn’t watch them get out of the cars and circle around?

Harper and Aiden go into the woods (leaving harpers car running in front of the warehouse) and somehow all 4 people rendezvous but don’t come up with a game plan. Then Harper, Aiden and Erica leave Oscar in the woods to go inside to rescue Piper, leaving no one to watch Oscar. And for no apparent reason oscar hides harpers car. Why?

When Harper, Aiden and Erica enter the building undetected, Harper has this epiphany where to find Piper. They are being quiet and sneaking around...then Piper is calling them and they rush headlong like bulls in a china shop. When they find Piper alone, no one checks her wounds or even bothers to ask her where her kidnappers are.

They make it outside without Erica who faces down too many men with guns (suicide mission) so that Aiden, Harper and Piper can escape which made no sense because shes shot almost immediately. 🤦‍♀️not to mention Harper(not Aiden) is carrying Piper (her injury is a cut wrist)

They get outside and see the car is missing so Aiden leaves piper and Harper (even though they know it’s a revenge plot against Harper) to look for ericas car. Why would they just sit outside the building and not have a rendezvous point in the woods? Why wouldn’t they all 3 go? While he’s gone, Harper gets captured by zero and Harper discovers that Piper is in on it. She doesn’t tell them that Aiden is in the woods.

Then aiden goes back in the building to save both...my eyes were seriously rolling 🙄 and while zero has men and is over a security team he uses strobe lights to confuse Aiden. I started laughing at this point. Then Aiden rescues Harper (that took forever) and they are crawling in ducts/pipes and meet up with Oscar. Lol. Then they just fall through at zeros feet. 😂 they end up getting out with only Erica as the casualty. But it was so ridiculous I was laughing and then it ends with the bizarre melodramatic scene where Aiden thinks Harper is Erica and tells her he loves her....and she walks off alone.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Syretta.
189 reviews2 followers
March 21, 2017
I swear the last 20-25 pages of this book were the longest pages of MY LIFE...this is that book where you have to know how it ends but while reading you're screaming 'JUST END ALREADY'!

2 stars for suspense but this book went fast then took forever to end. There is a slight twist to it and the way it ends tells me that there must be a follow up book maybe, but il probably skip it ...
1,172 reviews3 followers
June 10, 2017
Seemed interesting at first, then too many twists, some completely unlikely.

i couldn't listen for a couple of days, then when i got back to it realized i didn't care about the characters or even like them and deleted it.

I got to part 7 of 11 --chapter 34.
Profile Image for quinnster.
1,641 reviews16 followers
January 24, 2018
This wasn't as enjoyable as the last book I read by Meg Gardiner. It seemed to jump into the story pretty fast and didn't give me much time to get to know the main characters before I was supposed to care what happened to them. I just could never really get into it.
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