Lisa Black: Defensive Wounds & Tilly Bagshawe: Angel of the Dark Sunday, Oct 21 2012 

Forensic scientist Lisa Black brings all of her expertise to play in Defensive Wounds, the newest forensic thriller featuring investigator Theresa MacLean.

This is the fourth in the series, and there’s no question Black knows her stuff, so the story spins out with enough CSI-like details to keep crime junkies happy. But Black balances these with a deft hand at sly humor, which keeps the story rolling without becoming too scientific.

The pace hums along when Theresa is called to the Presidential Suite of Cleveland’s Ritz-Carlton to attend the murder scene of defense attorney Marie Corrigan, which happens in the middle of a huge lawyer’s convention. Known her history of corrupting evidence and witnesses, as well as making most forensic and police testifiers look bad, Corrigan’s hate list is too numerous to count. Add in her rampant sex appeal and use of it, and even Marie’s lovers could have had a motive for her murder.

What immediately ratchets up the tension is that Theresa’s only child, daughter Rachael, is working the front desk, dating a young man from the hotel’s kitchen crew. Then a second lawyer is found murdered in the hotel, and just as she gets involved in this second murder, Theresa is given information that leads to serious misgivings about Rachael’s beau. Add in the forensic nightmare of trace evidence left at at the hotel by hundreds of former guests, and Theresa’s nightmare is only beginning.

Black does a fine job of making Theresa complicated and real, as the crime unfolds and the investigation includes a detective with terrific chemistry with her. The struggle between mother and daughter is nicely done, too, and adds to the layered feel of the novel.

Next up is Angel of the Dark, the combined work of the late master storyteller Sidney Sheldon, and using his archives, novelist Tilly Bagshawe to round out the story and the complicated action.

This is novel with a theme of obsessions, dark and brooding, with action and lies at its heart.

Continuing in Sheldon’s style of heavy violence and lusty scenes, Bagshawe introduced LAPD Detective Danny MacGuire and his the big murder case that threatened to do him in. Millionaire art dealer Andrew Jakes has been brutally murdered and his lovely wife raped and beaten, then left died to her husband’s dead body. Drawn to the beautiful widow, but when he tried to question Angela Jakes about an inconsistency in her statement, she’s vanished without a trace.

Ten years later, McGuire is happily living in France, working for Interpol and enjoying life with the love of his life, Celine. Until the day Andrew’s son Matt appears, bringing evidence of three other unsolved identical slayings. Soon the two men are flying around  the globe in pursuit of the most brilliant murderer McGuire has ever seen.

Bagshawe does an admirable job of coming close to the intensity of Sheldon’s original novels. This is one readers will be able to picture on the big screen, larger than life, and filled with those endings that are not real resolutions at all.

Laura Lippman: And When She Was Good Sunday, Oct 21 2012 

In an author’s note, Laura Lippman explains the genesis of the protagonist of And When She Was Good, Heloise Lewis, a character she first created in 2001 and wrote about years later in two short stories.

Now Lippman has taken the time to explore Heloise and her beginnings and her today, alternating her back story for a good part of the novel, so readers can understand this woman who is meticulously organized, financially comfortable, and oh, yes, a prostitute who runs an exclusive agency.

But Heloise so much more: she’s a successful businesswoman who protects her workers; she’s a self-educated reader with a fondness for history; and she’s fiercely protective of her son, Scott, whose biological father languishes in prison and is unaware of his child.

Despite her insistence on strict compartmentalization in her life between work and home, which has left her without close friends, Heloise finds the lines starting to blur. Her vice squad protector and friend is retiring and will no longer have her back. Then an employee or two break her firm rules. When the wisp of possibility that her son’s father may be released from prison, the carefully wrought life she has constructed is in danger. Heloise is not a perfect person, but she is one with an intelligent, thinking mind and a finely-honed instinct for survival.

Val Deluca has only one way to deal with people who have lied or become a threat to him: he has them killed. And it’s  only a matter of time before the former pimp and casual murderer discovers he is in prison in the first place because Heloise betrayed him.

It is to Lippman’s credit that she is not only able to satisfactorily explain how Helen Lewis became Heloise Lewis, in a direct and unflinching way, but she manages to create a tough and resilient character you will find yourself rooting for as the pages turn.

The New York Times has compared Lippman to England’s Ruth Rendell: “Ms. Lippman writes like a warmer-blooded American Ruth Rendell, keenly observant and giving a faintly spooky charge to every stray detail.”

 

 

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