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.

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