Telling details build suspense in forensic investigation

Blunt Impact, by Lisa Black. Severn House. 224 pages. $28.95.

This is the fifth title in Ms. Black’s Theresa MacLean series, and they keep getting better and better. The main character grows more interesting, the forensic detail more intriguing, and the suspense more intense. When an attractive young woman, a cement “finisher” on a massive downtown Cleveland construction project, is found to have fallen to her death from the 23rd floor, the first question is whether her fall was accidental or was she pushed. Theresa’s forensic detective work makes a case for murder, and now the questions are by whom and why. bluntcoverimage

What’s most curious is that this was not a workday incident, but something that happened in the middle of the night when the site was closed and secured. What was she doing up there in the first place?

The deceased, Samantha Zebrowski, seems to have been well-liked by her co-workers, but co-workers and supervisors are the most likely to have access to the site after working hours.

Because “Sam” was well-known for frequenting neighborhood bars and often leaving in male company, one could conjecture that such a late night encounter led to violence. However, other possible motives come up as the investigation continues and further evidence is processed.

Perhaps her death was orchestrated as a symbolic act by a crazed member of the protest group whose members didn’t want what they considered to be an inhumane penitentiary in the heart of the city.

There are a lot of perhapses. And there is another center of narrative interest that connects to the primary one. Sam’s eleven year old daughter Anna witnessed the crime. In fact, Anna witnesses a lot of things. This sensitive, perceptive, and lonely child is a wanderer. She regularly sneaks out of her bedroom window, climbs down a tree, and explores the city. Though warned not to, “Ghost,” as she is nicknamed, puts herself in the way of danger. Readers get to know her well, as many of the novel’s chapters are presented through her point of view.

Lisa Black

Lisa Black

Ghost’s description of the man who struggled with her mother partly shapes the investigation. What drives Ghost to participate in the investigation – in fact, to conduct her own – is a sense of responsibility and, now that she has no mother, to discover her father. The stories she has been told about her father have only confused her; they’ve been lies meant to protect her. Obviously, the reader is also hooked on these questions: who is Ghost’s father? Did he have reason to murder Sam?

The investigation is pursued by Theresa with the assistance of her cousin Frank, who is a police detective, and Frank’s partner, Angela. The interaction among these three along with the larger workings of a major city police department and legal system brings in a great deal of procedural detail. Still, it is the details of the forensics work that is so strongly appealing. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 10, 2013 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the April 11 Bonita Springs edition, and the April 18 Naples edition,click here Florida Weekly – Blunt Impact 1 and here Florida Weekly – Blunt Impact 2

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