Tag Archives: vigilante

A series of grotesque murders ravages an institution for juvenile delinquents

Suffer the Children, by Lisa Black. Kensington Books. 320 pages. Hardcover $26.00.

This latest addition to the Gardiner and Renner Thriller series finds the skilled and dedicated forensics specialist Maggie Gardiner in a highly claustrophobic, menacing situation. She and her Cleveland police force colleagues – Jack Renner and his partner, Riley – visit an advanced multi-purpose institution to investigate what turns out to be the first in a series of murders. 

The Firebird Center for Children and Adolescents is a state-of-the-art juvenile detention center, part school and part prison. The inmate-pupils are grouped by age, by learning skills, and by social redeemability. Most, but not all, are victims of abuse, and too many are capable of abusive behavior. Few will ever be normal, but they might be able to stay out of trouble and lead productive lives. In some, sharp intelligence is warped toward brutal psychotic behavior. These are high-risk kids, to put it mildly.

They have psychological switches that go on and off, affecting behavior in unpredictable ways. They are master manipulators who can act normal.

They live in a controlled environment run by security personnel, therapists, and educators with special training. The institution’s leaders are constrained by delicate legal issues and marginal budgets.

Lisa Black, photo by Susan M. Klingbeil

Maggie’s task – discerning, collecting, and interpreting forensic evidence – is one center of interest. The other is how well Ms. Black uses Maggie’s reactions as a lens to enlighten readers about the nature of Firebird, including the personalities of individual children and staffers. Seeing what goes on there, even short of murder, is a harrowing experience. The admirable motives and skills of the professionals seem buried under a cloud. The inmates and the jailors share a no-win situation, and Lisa Black shows us why.

Are various children killing one another? Is a junior mastermind serial killer committing these horrendous crimes? If so, who is it? How are the victims chosen? Where will the evidence point? What will the motive be? Is it anything beyond blind, ungovernable aggression? . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the October 10, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the October 11 Naples and  Bonita Springs editions, and the October 18 Charlotte County edition, click here: Florida WeeklySuffer the Children

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Cape Coral investigator/crime writer launches a new thriller series

That Darkness, by Lisa Black. Kensington Books. 336 pages. Hardcover $25.00.

Forensic thriller author Lisa Black has launched a new series with a new lead character and a new publisher. Continuing to work as a crime scene investigator and latent printed examiner for the Cape Coral Police Department, Ms. Black places her new series in Cleveland, the setting for her earlier Teresa MacLean series and another two-part series before it. Billed as “A Gardiner and Renner Novel,” this series launch develops through alternating scenes, the narrator sometimes standing behind (and entering the mind of) forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner and sometimes taking us into police detective Jack Renner’s frightening consciousness.  thatdarkness-FINAL

Both are working the same crimes, but the nature of their work is in sharp contrast. Or is it?

Jack Renner is a vigilante with a badge. He has made it his mission to assassinate psychopaths who can beat the legal system. He is saving lives and, in his own mind, making the world safer by ending the lives of those rapists, killers, child abusers and other criminals who have escaped justice. He will bring the needed justice.

Jack is capable and dedicated. He has developed a system and created the isolated, hidden chambers where he can mete out this justice. Being part of a police department gives him access to information that is invaluable for his goal. In fact, it has been his experience as a policeman – a witness to the routine failures of the system – that has led him to his own personal madness. If that’s what it is.

Maggie is a dedicated, experienced scientist-technician who is very good at her trade and who enjoys her role in the crime-fighting profession. She is motivated by her own curiosity and by the magnitude of the crimes that she is assigned to investigate. Like Jack, her work takes up way too much of her life.

Lisa Black

Lisa Black

Readers will suspect early on that Maggie’s pursuit of evidence to find and convict a serial killer will lead to suspecting someone on the inside of the law enforcement system. Watching the pieces fall into place that will lead her to suspect Jack is made possible by Ms. Black’s masterful handling of plot, character, and scientific method. Beyond these centers of interest, the author has crafted a work of fascinating psychological depth.

Author Lisa Black is quite self-consciously a debunker of the glamor mythology surrounding CSI-type television dramas. In her books, we encounter a true authenticity of forensic Q & A. – the careful collection, examination, and evaluation of physical evidence. No miracles. No glamor. Just hard work and perhaps a special kind of trained intuition. In this regard, “That Darkness” is one of her best. The work sometimes may be tedious to Maggie, but the process described never becomes tedious to the reader. Rather, it is magnetic. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 27, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 28 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – That Darkness

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