Tag Archives: Lisa Black

A day in the life with Maggie Gardiner by Lisa Black

unpunishedI love newspapers. I always have. So even though overtime calls are not my favorite things in life I was a little excited to enter the huge building which houses the staff, reporters and printing press of the Cleveland Herald. Usually I am entering broken-down old homes and ratty apartments with dishes in the sink and cockroaches in the corners, where the heat and/or air conditioning does not work—which can be more or less a problem depending on the season, which on the shores of Lake Erie can change every ten minutes. Or I’m picking through a vacant lot where a body has been left atop a molding mattress, or a cramped car’s interior where someone decided to end their life with a bullet to the brain. Or—well, you get the idea.

So, the well-lit, climate-controlled, spacious Herald building would have come as a welcome relief in any case, but filled as it was with images of Lois Lane, Humphrey Bogart and Lou Grant, well, I didn’t mind losing a little sleep. Yes, someone was dead, but after ten years as a forensic specialist, I’ve learned not to get that get to me.

Most of the time.

The nice printing supervisor walked me through the building, explaining and/or griping about the difficulties of print journalism today—readership that’s been declining since the 40’s, the loss of the cash cow known as classified advertising to sites like Craigslist and MSN, lay-offs left and right, the harm done a society when there’s no one watching the gatekeepers—but I didn’t get to see Lois or Humphrey. It was the middle of the night, the stories written, the reporters home, only the printing and delivery to thousands of doorsteps left to do before their workday began anew.

We arrived at the print towers. The three-story high ceiling allowed for four towers of steel machinery to function, squeezing an unbroken stream of moving newspaper between huge, horizontal rollers. The rollers were stacked vertically inside the steel-framed towers, and not all the towers were the same size. The tallest had four sets of rollers, others two or one. The paper ribbon stretched from the top of one to the bottom of the next like a spider’s web. The noise drowned out everything else as the printing manager had to shout to explain: “The aluminum sheets are wound around the rolls, there, but they print on a rubber roll next to it, which then prints on the paper. That’s why it’s called offset. There’s one on each side of the paper, so it prints on both sides at once. Every turn prints eight sheets of newspaper.”

I could see the rolls and the paper but there seemed to be much more than that, from the huge boxes feeding the paper in and suspended vats of what must be ink, feeding through metal tubes to a mechanism that ran parallel to the rollers, an array of scaffolding and even steps surrounding each tower. What appeared to be super heavy duty skateboards moved around in a set of tracks that wound around the bottoms of the roller towers. They carried the huge rolls of paper into place. The manager continued: “The taller towers with more rollers are doing the color printing, the shorter ones, all black. Four colors, of course—red, blue, yellow and black. The paper roll then feeds into the folder, where the paper is folded and cut and sent to binding.”

I could have watched the mesmerizing action all day, but my gaze faltered when I saw the body. An unlucky copy editor hung from a long strap tied to the railing at the highest tower. A sad, silent figure against the cacophony of the press—and perhaps, given all the stresses in the industry which had just been described to me, not that surprising.

But then my empathy turned back on myself when I saw who else awaited on the highest tower—Jack Renner. I stopped in my tracks and my heart began to pound in time with the pounding of the huge metal rolls.

Because Jack Renner is a killer.


You can read more about Maggie in UNPUNISHED, the second book in the Gardiner and Renner suspense series.

Maggie Gardiner, a forensic expert who studies the dead, and Jack Renner, a homicide cop who stalks the living, form an uneasy partnership to solve a series of murders in this powerful new thriller by the bestselling author of That Darkness.

It begins with the kind of bizarre death that makes headlines—literally. A copy editor at the Cleveland Herald is found hanging above the grinding wheels of the newspaper assembly line, a wide strap wrapped around his throat. Forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner has her suspicions about this apparent suicide inside the tsunami of tensions that is the news industry today—and when the evidence suggests murder, Maggie has no choice but to place her trust in the one person she doesn’t trust at all . . .

Jack Renner is a killer with a conscience, a vigilante with his own code of honor. In the past, Jack has used his skills and connections as a homicide detective to take the law into his own hands, all in the name of justice. He has only one problem: Maggie knows his secret. She insists he enforce the law, not subvert it. But when more newspaper employees are slain, Jack may be the only person who can help Maggie unmask the killer– even if Jack is still checking names off his own private murder list.

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About the author
Lisa Black has spent over 20 years in forensic science, first at the coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and now as a certified latent print examiner and CSI at a Florida police dept. Her books have been translated into 6 languages, one reached the NYT Bestseller’s List and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series. Connect with Lisa at lisa-black.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Unpunished. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends February 1, 2017. Good luck everyone!

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

A Day in the Life of Maggie Gardiner by Lisa Black

That DarknessThere’s nothing particularly interesting about my life. What I do is pretty routine, most of the time: I compare fingerprints and photograph crime scenes and collect items of evidence. All the excitement is over when I get there—which is the way I like it—and I’m happy to let the police officers deal with tackling the suspects or talking to the press or comforting the family. I don’t have a spouse or children or even a dog—I live in a downtown apartment that doesn’t allow pets—but I’m not lonely. I have my co-workers, DNA analyst Carol and my boss Denny, who is currently a little scatterbrained because his wife is about to have their third child.

Cleveland is a major city with a healthy homicide rate. I see a lot of drug dealers perforated in a drive-by and abused women with the life crushed out of them. So it’s not exactly a surprise when a guy turns up dead in an alley, and in any event there isn’t much I can do except to test for gunshot residue on the clothing and estimate whether he was shot from a distance or up close and personal. It isn’t even necessary in this case since the man died from three shots to the back of the head—obviously close and personal—with a twenty-two. A small caliber, a relatively un-dramatic means for an execution, but cheap and effective. This leaves me with no DNA to collect and without hairs and fibers from the suspect’s clothes since the victim never got a chance to struggle. But with no ID on him I have to ink and roll his cold fingers–again, just a routine day, a visit to the morgue and back to the lab to run them through our database. The guy’s name pops up, which links him to an extensive criminal history. Big surprise. Much more poignant to me is the battered young girl we find draped over a grave in the ancient downtown cemetery—her fingerprints don’t connect her to any history at all. No one has even reported her missing. How does that happen?

I examine her clothes for hairs and fibers, since there had obviously been quite a struggle. But before I follow any trail to her past another dead guy turns up, no ID, maybe foreign clothing. . .and a few details which make me believe that he is connected to the young girl. Not only connected, but I think he’s the one who killed her—question is, who killed him? With three twenty-two slugs through the cerebellum.

Then a very white-collar child pornographer is found, his body nearly mummified, with. . .three shots to the back of the head. It’s not a pattern, exactly—.22 is a cheap and common caliber, and there is no way this guy would have set foot in the alleys the dead gangbanger frequented, or dealt with the violent human trafficker. The only thing these guys had in common was a police record.

A police record.

I begin to have worrisome thoughts and theories, all of which I have to keep to myself. If I am wrong, my career could be forever trashed, and my job is everything to me. It is my life. It is my home.

But if I am right then the killer is very, very close to that home. And me.


That Darkness is the first book in the NEW Gardiner and Renner suspense series, published by Kensington, April 2016.

As a forensic investigator for the Cleveland Police Department, Maggie Gardiner has seen her share of Jane Does. The latest is an unidentified female in her early teens, discovered in a local cemetery. More shocking than the girl’s injuries—for Maggie at least—is the fact that no one has reported her missing. She and the detectives assigned to the case (including her cop ex-husband) are determined to follow every lead, run down every scrap of evidence. But the monster they seek is watching each move, closer to them than they could ever imagine.

Jack Renner is a killer. He doesn’t murder because he savors it, or because he believes himself omnipotent, or for any reason other than to make the world a safer place. When he follows the trail of this Jane Doe to a locked room in a small apartment where eighteen teenaged girls are anything but safe, he knows something must be done. But his pursuit of their captor takes an unexpected turn.

Maggie Gardiner finds another body waiting for her in the autopsy room—and a host of questions that will challenge everything she believes about justice, morality, and the true nature of evil . . .

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About the author
Lisa Black has spent over 20 years in forensic science, first at the coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and now as a certified latent print examiner and CSI at a Florida police dept. Her books have been translated into 6 languages, one reached the NYT Bestseller’s List and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series. Visit Lisa at lisa-black.com, @LisaBlackAuthor and on Facebook.

Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a print copy of That Darkness. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end May 3, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

A Day in the Life of Theresa Maclean by Lisa Black

Close To The BoneI am a forensic scientist with the medical examiner’s office in Cleveland, Ohio. I should probably start out with what I’m not: I’m not a cop. I don’t interrogate suspects or chase them with guns. I am not a doctor. I don’t do autopsies or decide cause of death. I am not a lawyer. I don’t obtain arrest warrants or spend any more time at the courthouse than I absolutely have to. I am the person who sits in front of a computer for hours looking at the black lines of fingerprint patterns, climbs into an attic in August to retrieve the murder weapon, and plucks hair from the head of a prisoner who just beat his brother-in-law to death.

On any given day I might examine a victim’s clothing, comparing the bullet holes in the shirt to the bullet holes in his body, cut a stained sample of it for DNA testing and then do the Griess procedure on its surface to see how far away the killer was when he pulled the trigger. I might collect swabs from the victim’s hands to test for gunshot residue, even though that won’t prove that he did or did not fire a gun. I might go out to a bloodied living room to look at the pattern of red drops and determine a sequence of events. I might spend the whole day sitting around the courthouse waiting to testify, only to have the defendant take a plea as soon as he sees the jury’s stern faces. I might clean out the supply closet. I might reorganize thirty-year-old blood samples stored in the deep freeze…which smells really bad.

So there is no such thing as a typical day. And certainly, in Close to the Bone, this day turns into the most un-typical of them all. For here, in this battered, seventy year old building that is my second home, I came across the still-warm corpse of my co-worker–beaten to death in the deskman’s office with his blood scattered across the worn linoleum, the intake forms, the dog-eared list of funeral homes. I never really liked him, but that won’t stop me from searching through this dark, empty edifice full of the dead for his killer.

Now, hours later, my workspace is crawling with cops, who don’t even include my cousin the homicide detective because he is out of town on—very un-typical for Frank—a vacation. Instead I have only an unfamiliar but somehow interesting sergeant and my young BFF Don, our DNA analyst. When I stumble on another body it becomes clear that the killer is stalking medical examiner office employees and I don’t know why. If I don’t figure this out and soon, myself or Don—for whom I have long harbored very un-typical, and un-maternal, feelings—will be the next victim.


You can read more about Theresa in Close to the Bone, the seventh book in the “Theresa Maclean” mystery series, published by Severn House. The first book in the series is Takeover.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on October 16 for the chance to win a copy of CLOSE TO THE BONE. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

About the author
Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s LisaBoffice she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida. Her books have been translated into six languages and one reached the NYT mass market bestseller’s list.

Visit Lisa at her website or on Facebook

Blunt Impact by Lisa Black

Blunt ImpactBlunt Impact by Lisa Black is the 5th book in the “Theresa MacLean” mystery series. Publisher: Severn House, April 2013

When a body at a downtown building site is identified as that of one of the few women working on a construction crew, forensic detective Theresa MacLean realizes that what looks like an accident is really murder. Why is the dead woman so dressed up? And what was she doing at the top of unfinished building in the middle of the night?

It turns out there was a witness to the death; a young girl nicknamed Ghost, due to her habit of slipping silently and watchfully around the neighborhood. Ghost says the woman didn’t fall — she was pushed by someone Ghost can only identify as the Shadow Man.

Soon Theresa will face the killer in a desperate battle for the little girl’s life.

Theresa is back and on the case in this suspenseful drama. From the first page until the conclusion, the action never stops as one by one we get closer to the identity of the killer. The author did a good job in keeping me busy with each scene as the story intensified. I like the strength in Theresa as she does her job in search of answers. This was a good read and I hope there’s more cases with Theresa and the gang.

A Day In The Life Of Theresa MacLean by Lisa Black

A typical Tuesday in November for Theresa MacLean, forensic scientist: I trudge from the subway station to the medical examiner’s office. The trace evidence department is still dark; Leo has not yet arrived so I take care of the most important thing, which is to get the coffee started. Then I head back downstairs for the ‘viewing’, at which all the cases currently waiting to be autopsied are wheeled out and the deskman reads their history. This is so the pathologists can observe, suggest and decide who is going to do which autopsy. Exactly how they work that out, I’ve never quite determined. One doctor has been around so long that he sometimes pokes a body, testing for lividity or some such, without putting on a latex glove first. Not a big deal. If you’re hyper about germs you don’t get into this line of work. So far I’ve been exposed to HIV, Hepatitis A, B, and C, spinal meningitis and tuberculosis.

For those dead of unnatural causes, I come in. Any dead of gunshot, I will swab their hands for gunshot residue. If they’ve been beaten, bludgeoned, strangled or stabbed, I will scrape their fingernails for foreign skin and fibers. If hung, I will mark and remove the ligature. If hit by a car, I will look for paint and glass fragments. If it’s a homicide I will collect hair samples, including pubic hairs if there’s signs of sexual assault. I’ll remove the clothing if it hasn’t already been cut off by EMS, and will pop in and out of the autopsy room to see if there are holes in their clothing that correspond with bullet holes or stab wounds in the body. It doesn’t smell good in there. Then the clothes are examined for gunshot residue, hairs and fibers, and semen. I cut out a piece of the bloody cloth and save it in a manila envelope in case some attorney asks why we didn’t check to make sure the blood on the victim’s shirt belonged to the victim (well, gee, because he had five stab wounds so we kind of assumed the dark red stains on his shirt might well be related).

I break for lunch and, if I’m lucky, sit down for the first time in about five hours. After lunch, provided all the victims and clothing are taken care of, I will work in the lab. It had chairs but it also has my boss. I will take test tubes of blood from the day’s autopsies and drop the blood on pieces of sterile cloth to be frozen and retained for future DNA testing. I will analyze the gunshot residue swabs for barium and antimony, two components used in primer caps, and identify the fibers and compare them to samples from the victim’s and suspect’s clothing. I might have to go to a scene; the victim might still be there or the crime may be several days old and the officers just want me to examine the blood spatter pattern on the wall. Part of all of the day (and I don’t get to choose which part) might be spent sitting at the courthouse waiting to testify. I may have something to say that will put the suspect in jail for life or I may just be there to say yes, this is the victim’s clothing. Either way I have to sit there as long as they tell me to, out in the hallway with a crowd of people, none of whom I dare strike up a conversation with because they may also be there to testify in that case. So I read a book and avoid eye contact for one or two or eight hours.

Then I grab a cup for the road and head back to the subway station, already planning out what I’d like to get accomplished the next day. Provided there isn’t another homicide.


You can read more about Theresa in DEFENSIVE WOUNDS, the fourth book in the “Theresa MacLean” suspense series. The first book in the series is TAKEOVER.

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s office she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department. Her books have been published in Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Japan. Evidence of Murder reached the NYT mass market bestseller’s list. Visit Lisa at www.lisa-black.com.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Defensive Wounds by Lisa Black

Defensive Wounds by Lisa Black is the fourth book in the “Theresa MacLean” thriller series. Publisher: William Morrow, September 2011

In this fourth novel in Lisa Black’s captivating suspense series, forensic investigator Theresa MacLean finds herself embroiled in a case in which everyone has a motive and everyone is a suspect—especially when high-powered defense attorneys start turning up dead.

When Marie Corrigan, a Cleveland defense attorney with a history of falsifying evidence and no shortage of enemies, is found dead in the presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton, most people would agree that she had it coming. Forensic investigator Theresa MacLean is summoned to the crime scene by her daughter, Rachel, who is working the front desk. But even before Theresa enters the room, she knows that she’s walking into a forensic nightmare—for crime scenes at hotels, even the most luxurious, are teeming with trace evidence that has been left behind by innumerable guests and may or may not be related to the murder. But what Theresa finds is even worse than she imagined.

Given the positioning of Marie’s body, everyone assumes the same thing—that it’s a lovers’ tryst turned lethal. But large questions remain: How did the killer gain access to the room without anyone’s knowledge? And has the scene been staged for their benefit? The little evidence Theresa has is conflicting at best. What’s more, a legal convention at the hotel provides an endless list of suspects—and potential victims.

When two more bodies show up in quick succession, each in a similar state, Theresa’s investigation takes on a whole new urgency as she fears they may have a serial killer on their hands—a serial killer with a vendetta. But as she searches for the threads that tie the cases together, Theresa begins to suspect that she and her daughter are closer to danger than they realize. And a mother will stop at nothing to protect the life of her child.

What a ride! When Theresa gets a call from her daughter alerting her to a brutal murder, Theresa will protect her daughter at all costs. Investigating the case brings Theresa and her daughter into the cross-hair of a murderer and Theresa must use her skills to prevent another death, most likely theirs. This was an action-packed, non-stop drama that kept me riveted to the pages. The suspenseful plot had me guessing and I was surprised at the outcome when all was revealed. Theresa is a strong woman and it shows in her dedication to her work and to her family. I look forward to reading the next book in this gripping and thrilling series.

Trail of Blood by Lisa Black

Trail of Blood by Lisa Black is the third book in the “Theresa MacLean” thriller series. Publisher: William Morrow, September 2010

Seventy-five years ago, a madman nicknamed the Torso Killer terrorized Cleveland. His horrific spree lasted four years and crisscrossed the entire city. Overall, he was credited with more than a dozen murders. And he was never caught.

Today, forensic scientist Theresa MacLean is called to an abandoned building where a desiccated, decapitated body has been found in a room that’s been sealed off for years. Although there’s no immediate proof, everyone assumes the same thing: that the newly discovered corpse was a Torso Killer victim. The body has decayed beyond recognition, leaving few forensic clues, but Theresa sees this as an opportunity to shed some light on a big piece of Cleveland’s past that until now has been shrouded in mystery.

But then another body—this one recently deceased—turns up, and all signs at the scene seem to indicate the work of a new Torso Killer. Suddenly, Theresa’s investigation takes on a whole new meaning. Her examination of the old body has opened a door to the past—a door someone wanted to keep closed—and she shifts her focus from solving a historical puzzle to catching a very dangerous, present-day psychopath.

But as the body count rises, Theresa finds herself nearer to danger than she ever imagined. For the killer is keeping a watchful eye on Theresa, and she begins to feel his presence everywhere. Each step brings them closer and closer to each other—at one point separated by no more than a speeding train in a railroad switchyard—as Theresa scours the city in her hunt for a murderous lunatic intent on reliving a terrifying past.

In this story, the past meets the present when Theresa and her cousin Frank are on the trail of two killers, 75 years apart. The discovery of a mutilated body is connected to a serial killer who caused havoc nearly a century ago. When the same type of mutilation is found on several bodies, it looks like the work of a copy-cat serial killer. The author takes us on a past and present journey that culminates in the identity of the two killers. This book was a thrilling ride that I did not want to get off. The non-stop action kept me turning the pages from the first paragraph to the last sentence. The suspense was so riveting, I didn’t know which way I was being led. The back and forth between past and present was well written and I loved how they both meshed together. This was a great read and I can’t wait for the next book in this series. My rating: 5 stars

Evidence of Murder by Lisa Black

Evidence of Murder by Lisa Black is the second book in the “Theresa MacLean” thriller series. Publisher: William Morrow, September 2009

Forensic investigator Theresa MacLean takes on the worst kind of murder case—one without clues—in this second novel in a hot new series from Lisa Black

Eight months ago, forensic investigator Theresa MacLean lost her fiance in a bank robbery gone wrong, and she’s had trouble concentrating on her work ever since. But now a particularly difficult case may just be what she needs to regain her focus by demanding all her skill, intelligence, and attention.

Jillian Perry has been found dead in the woods, leaving behind a husband of three weeks and a young daughter. The police can’t determine how she died—her body shows no visible marks, and the autopsy reveals nothing suspicious—and the leading theory is that she purposely wandered into the forest and succumbed to the freezing weather. But something doesn’t feel right to Theresa, and she can’t let it go.

To complicate matters, a former boyfriend of Jillian’s unexpectedly petitions for custody of the daughter. Obsessed with Jillian, he also suspects foul play in Jillian’s death, and now he and Theresa believe Jillian’s daughter may be in danger of meeting a similar fate. With a child’s life at stake, Theresa must search for evidence of murder—evidence that doesn’t seem to exist—before it’s too late.

I enjoyed this story.  It had a good plot and characterization. I liked how no matter the odds, Theresa held steadfast with her belief of who the murderer was and fought to get the proof needed.  My rating: 3.5 stars

Takeover by Lisa Black

Takeover by Lisa Black is the first book in the new “Theresa MacLean” thriller series. Publisher: William Morrow, August 2008

In the tradition of Kathy Reichs and Jeffery Deaver, a talented novelist introduces a gutsy forensic investigator caught in the middle of an explosive crisis

Early one Thursday morning, forensic scientist Theresa MacLean is called to the scene of a gruesome murder. The body of a man has been found on the front lawn of a house in suburban Cleveland, the back of his head bashed in. Although it’s not the best start to her day, Theresa has been through worse. What unfolds during the next eight hours, though, is nothing she could ever have imagined.

Downtown at the Federal Reserve Bank, her police detective fiancé is taken hostage with six others in a robbery masterminded by two clever criminals. When she arrives at the scene, Theresa discovers that the police have brought in the city’s best hostage negotiator: handsome, high-profile Chris Cavanaugh. He hasn’t lost a victim yet, but Theresa wonders if he might be too arrogant to save the day this time around.

When her fiancé is injured, she seizes the opportunity to trade places with him. Once on the inside, she will use all her wiles, experience, and technical skills to gain control of the situation. But what initially appears to be a bank heist turns into something far more complex and deadly, and Theresa must decide how much more she is willing to sacrifice in order to save the lives of innocent people as well as her own.

When her fiancé is wounded in a hostage situation, Theresa risks her life to save his by trading places.  Now begins a cat and mouse game where Theresa hopes to come out a survivor.  This was a good thriller with some surprise twists. My rating: 5 stars

*new-to-me author