#TXReads: Meg Gardiner, Best-Selling Crime Author, 3-Time ‘Jeopardy’ Champ

This article first appeared in Texas Lifestyle Magazine on Aug. 27, 2020.

When the king of horror says, “Don’t miss it. This is a great one,” mystery and crime junkies better pay attention because Stephen King knows a thing or two about the subject.

Inspired by true crime cases and infamous serial killers, Edgar-winning novelist Meg Gardiner writes stories that cause readers around the world to sleep with the lights on. But before the best-selling author was scaring the bajeezus out of her fans, Gardiner was practicing law in Los Angeles and teaching at the University of California (she currently lives in Austin with her husband and family).

Stephen King calls Meg Gardiner’s mystery novels, “Simply put, the finest crime-suspense series I’ve come across in the last twenty years.” Photo courtesy Meg Gardiner

Writing a novel and subsequently commandeering the role of crime novelist started out as a goal she had set for herself years before. But with 14 published books now under her proverbial belt, Gardiner has turned a passing hobby into a spectacular third career.

Her crime-suspense novels feature a strong lead female character (maybe not unlike Gardiner herself) navigating a tumultuous set of circumstances in Santa Barbara, California.“China Lake” is the first in a series of five crime novels featuring freelance journalist Evan Delaney. The sequential series went on to win the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original and was a finalist for NPR’s “100 Best Thrillers Ever.

The Stanford University graduate followed up the popular Evan Delaney series in 2008 with forensic psychiatrist Jo Becket. The first in the four-part series takes place in San Francisco with “The Dirty Secrets Club,” “The Memory Collector” in 2009, “The Liar’s Lullaby” in 2010 and “The Nightmare Thief” in 2011.

Then in 2017, Gardiner introduced the world to FBI rookie agent Caitlin Hendrix in the UNSUB trilogy. “Unsub” is an FBI term for an unidentified criminal who is being sought by law enforcement. The UNSUB series takes the reader on a journey from California to Texas and back again as Hendrix develops her skills as  an FBI profiler.

Writing thrillers is a job Meg Gardiner feels lucky to have and draws her inspiration by real life serial killers, including the Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy and the Night Stalker. Courtesy photo

The majority of her novels are heavily influenced by serial killers, including the Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy and the Night Stalker Richard Ramirez. Gardiner’s latest book, “The Dark Corners of the Night,” is the third novel in the “UNSUB” series, which was recently purchased by Amazon Studios for developing into a new TV series.

Meg Gardiner is the 2020 president of Mystery Writers of America, a three-time “Jeopardy” champion in the ‘80s and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.

Cover: Meg Gardiner, courtesy photo