by Lisa Black
Kensington | April 2016
Hardback: 336 pages (978-1496701886)
Series: Gardiner and Renner #1
ARC: NETGALLEY in exchange for an unbiased review.
The room wasn’t much just a steel table and chairs, old paint on the walls with the occasional rust stain, two windows frosted by contact paper and a battered desk in the corner, well out of splattering range…
Jack Renner’s clients would have seen many such rooms in their time..
Brian Johnson, a life-long criminal miscreant, believes he is completing a required pre-release prison interview. Decked out in gangsta garb, stylng a cocky attitude, Brian struts into what appears to be an interview room followed by “Dr.” Renner. Jack Renner, Cleveland homicide detective by day, dispensor of vigilante justice in his spare time, has “interviewed” 14 “clients” here. He has a well-honed method getting the most hardened criminal to spill their story. Each client has been hand selected after careful consideration, Jack has retrieved every known fact about each one and is ready to play his role in cleaning up the world.
So Brian, like the 14 before him, never knew it when the gun pointed at the back of his head was fired.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Maggie Gardiner works as a civilian criminalist with the Cleveland Police Department primarily collecting fingerprints but has experience in serology and spends time working crime scenes work as well. Naturally inquisitive, doggedly persistent and keenly observant, Maggie takes on a crime scene challenge like hound dog on a scent.
Renner has managed to control his shady side to perfection right up until he bumps up against Maggie. As the morgue fills with unfortunate victims and murdered criminals , Maggie begins to connect the dots and unknowingly closes in on Renner’s secret life. As Jack unravels trying to control and steer the investigation away from his involvement, Maggie begins to question inconsistencies in his behavior and statements until the day….
Jack straightened and turned to her…She stared at him open-mouthed. Then she said, “It’s you.” “Yes, Maggie,” he told her. “It’s me.”
The novel’s overarching theme posits the question… when is it moral to take the law into your own hands? When society fails to protect the weak from predators that game the system should someone step in and stop the madness? What is the line between justice and vigilantism?
The author, a forensic investigator herself, shares her knowledge of the work in exquisite detail.
The parallel story lines with Jack as part of the investigative team trying to distract Maggie from linking him to her findings and Maggie’s dogged determination to unearth the truth move steadily through the story before reaching an unexpected ending.
Jack’s clients reveal the seedy side of life and focus the reader’s thoughts on topics such as human trafficking and elder abuse and neglect.
Black “tells” us things about Jack, Maggie, the victims and the perpetrators, but we don’t become invested in their lives. We don’t know the backstories. She doesn’t scratch beneath the surface. It would have been better to personalize the main characters in enough detail to excite the reader to follow them in later works.
A worthy read. The hot topics will challenge your thoughts about the justice system and the plight of the innocent. Hoping for more character development in the second issue of the series.