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.
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Lisa Black introduced the characters of Maggie Gardiner and Jack Renner in her acclaimed suspense novel That Darkness. She is the author of seven novels in the Theresa MacLean mystery series and two novels written as Elizabeth Becka. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County 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 is a latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes.
Lisa has lectured at writers’ conventions and appeared on panels, and is a member of Sisters In Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. As a forensic specialist, she is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists, the International Association for Identification, the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts and is a Certified Latent Print Examiner. She has testified in court as an expert witness over 65 times. Her books have been translated into six languages. She lives near Fort Myers, Florida. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.lisa-black.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Lisa Black
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Lisa Black
All rights reserved.
Jack eyed the kid as his partner continued the questioning, noting how he had perfected the adolescent sprawl, head lolling, face bored nearly to a coma, arms and legs splayed in a show of utter contempt for both his surroundings and the two men present there — or at least as splayed as he could get with one hand cuffed to the table. Jack watched, and waited, and worked to resist the overwhelming desire to smack the kid out of his seat.
"Ronnie —" Jack's partner, Riley, began, loose tie flopping over a wrinkled shirt and red hair askew.
"Reign," the kid corrected him. "They call me Reign."
"My mistake," Riley went on. "Ronald —"
"Reign. 'Cause I'm the king."
Jack straightened his long frame from where he had been standing with his back against the cool concrete wall of the interrogation room — perhaps a mistake, because he needed coolness. "Can you even spell 'reign'?" Ronnie Soltis swiveled his head to take in Jack as if he had only then noticed the man's existence, as if they hadn't been at this for over an hour. "Ain't never had much use for school."
Riley snorted. "That much is obvious. You've been held back twice — and you have to practically get a grade of zero to be flunked in this day and age. Is it your goal to endlessly repeat the ninth grade?"
"It's my goal to eliminate all fat white cops from the planet," the kid said, words now less casual.
Riley pointed out, with elaborate confusion on his face, "But you're white."
"As well as only a doughnut or two short of type two diabetes," Jack added. He moved closer to Ronnie, aka Reign, Soltis, a boy not yet old enough to drive. Because as absurd as this gangsta-glamorizing punk seemed, there was nothing funny about the things he had done. Nothing at all.
Ronnie Soltis had managed to amass a criminal record that would be the envy of most Quincy Avenue gangbangers. It dated back to his eighth birthday, beginning with theft and progressing to burglary, arson, dealing, destruction of private property (the home of a rival marijuana dealer), destruction of public property (the county library, for reasons never fully explained), aggravated menacing (various activities relating to his drug business), assaults, plural, aggravated assault (the stabbing of another young man in the eye; the boy had five years and a hundred pounds on him but lacked the killer instinct), and at least two attempted rapes. Those had been foiled only because Ronnie preferred to choose victims he felt were worthy of him — in this case, pretty, slender girls who happened to be athletic enough to outrun him. Pretty much anyone could outrun Ronnie, who spent all his spare time on video games. And now he had progressed to attempted murder, his failure due only to the restrictions of physics. But he had tried. He would keep trying.
Jack was not the first to feel an itch to knock some sense into the kid. He figured he would not be the last.
Because Ronnie Soltis's true goal was to be the baddest mother in the valley. He wanted to rule the underworld with an iron fist, to be, if not respected, then at least feared by all. And Ronnie Soltis was making good progress for someone who had had been raised in the very un-underworld-like suburb of Solon, about as far from the ghetto as one could get and still be in Cuyahoga County, and despite a standard of living that meant if he had ever had to actually live in a ghetto, he certainly would not feel so enamored. His overwhelmed parents had long since given up, Social Services had thrown up their hands, and the cops were barely holding off a strong feeling of futility.
"I need to know about the bottle," Riley was saying, his fair skin splotching and coloring as he fought back the annoyance. His extra thirty pounds weren't helping the blood flow either. Jack took another step, reached the table.
"Don't know what you're talking about." In Ronnie-speak it came out "dohnowutyertalkinbout."
"The one that had gasoline in it. The one you stuffed your shirt into the top of and lit on fire."
"Not my shirt. I got my shirt on," the kid snorted, plucking at the bright orange fabric to prove his point. Jack hovered around the edge of the table, only two feet from Ronnie's chair.
"And dropped into the open window of D'Andre Junior's Cadillac. You know D'Andre, right?"
"You and your pal Scrubs smashed D'Andre's hand last week for skimming the count. Dropped a concrete block on it."
Jack moved, slow, nonthreatening, to stand just behind Ronnie's right shoulder. Ronnie removed his arm from where it had been hanging over the back of the chair and deposited it in his lap.
"With your record, we could have had you tried as an adult. You wouldn't have seen daylight until your thirtieth birthday. So you sent him a message that he might want to drop the charges, right?"
The kid stared at the one-way glass in front of him as if checking out his haircut, supremely unconcerned by the cops on either side of him. But his unnatural stillness told Jack that he was all too aware; his muscles tensed a little more with every inch closer Jack came. The instinctual recognition of one predator for another.
"His girlfriend, Laila, was going to testify against you, wasn't she? Is that why you targeted the Cadillac even though you knew D'Andre Junior wouldn't be riding in it on a Sunday morning? Hell, D'Andre would probably be struck by lightning if he ever crossed the threshold of a church. Just Laila and her two little girls would be in that car. You knew that, didn't you?"
Jack switched to the side of the kid's chair. The kid pulled in his right foot, which had been extended as far as possible under the table in the adolescent sprawl of disrespect. Classic body language of the lost.
"Burned one of the kids pretty badly. The other one got broken glass in her arm. Just two and three years old."
Ronnie said nothing, but the silence didn't have a feel of shame to it. Not the slightest flicker of remorse passed over his expression. He kept any smart comment to himself and darted another look at Jack out of the corner of his eye. Then he pulled in his other foot.
"Tough enough to get a three-year-old to sit still for stitches, but try to treat burns on a baby — she just wouldn't stop screaming, the nurses said."
The kid straightened his spine, sat up with his feet tucked underneath his chair, but this didn't signal any willingness to either face or confess any facts — simply an automatic, involuntary reaction to Jack invading the buffer zone of his personal space. A triumph of sorts, but a useless, meaningless one. Ronnie gazed up at Riley and said, "Ain't you got any sort of coffee in this shithouse?" Jack had a fleeting vision of ending Ronnie Soltis's life right then and there, saving D'Andre's life, sparing Laila and her tiny girls any future malice. It would be so easy — or it would have been had his "murder room" not been dismantled. No, selective and well-justified murder could not be his plan anymore, not since he had the misfortune to meet up with Maggie Gardiner.
Now he had to be — what, the reformed Jack? The kinder and gentler Jack? Given Ronnie's obvious issues with anger and impulse control, his determined and hell-bent path toward self-demolition, the kindest, gentlest thing to do would be to ply young Ronnie with his favorite food and drink and some quiet conversation until the kid felt as comfortable on this planet as he ever would, pump three bullets into the back of his head, and put Ronnie Soltis out of his misery before he could cause any further destruction to everyone and everything in his orbit.
But, alas, that had been last month.
Jack couldn't stand to be in that room another moment. "Let's go, Riley. I'm sure the king's daddy's lawyer is here by now."
Riley said, "It's lunchtime, anyway."
They left without another word. As Jack held the door for his partner, he saw the look of slight disappointment cross the kid's face as his playthings left the room. But no matter. There would be plenty of others.
Ronnie Soltis stretched his legs out again, rubbed the wrist with the cuff, and waited for his attorney.
Jack shut the door and walked away.CHAPTER 2
Maggie Gardiner stepped out of the marked city car, hitched her camera bag over her shoulder, and gazed up at the vast, dark structure in front of her. The offices of the city's newspaper, the Herald, occupied the largest building within city limits, though to judge from recent reports on the demise of the American newspaper, it would probably be shuttered and turned into luxury lakeview condos within the next decade. The thought made her slam the car's door with an unfair amount of force.
Maggie had thrown on her uniform and pulled her dark hair back, but that had been as glamorous as she felt like getting for a late-night call-out. The cool spring air pricked her bare forearms. She approached the entrance, framed by an empty flagpole and a motto engraved in stone over the doors: "Give light and the people will find their own way."
She stopped and thought about that. A wonderful sentiment. She could use a little light these days, because her way didn't seem clear at all.
She tugged at the glass door. Nothing.
A small plaque to the left of the door read: AFTER HOURS PLEASE PRESS BUTTON. She pressed.
A person entered the lobby from a rear door, a slender girl in a starched uniform. She pushed the door's bar from the inside and let Maggie in.
Maggie introduced herself and asked if there were police officers present. The girl's face took on a look of solemn concern. "Oh yes, for Mr. Davis. It's so awful what happened. I'll get someone — you should have come in the rear entrance — it's going to be a long walk from here — hang on a sec and I'll get you Kevin."
The lobby had obviously had a makeover at some point in history. The woman led Maggie to a long desk topped with granite in order to find a phone. Oversized, framed prints of front pages through the years lined the walls on both sides, announcing stories from the Torso killings during the Great Depression to Carl Stokes's election as mayor to the football team defecting to Baltimore. Leather sofas surrounded a glass coffee table, which held only a copy of the previous day's edition.
The woman dialed the phone. From the notations on her uniform she served as the nighttime security guard. She didn't look strong enough to take on a half-drowned kitten, but Maggie knew appearances could deceive. "Can you come up and escort the, um —"
"Forensic tech," Maggie supplied for her. Actually her title was forensic scientist, but she opted for something shorter and more descriptive.
"The CSI," the girl finished, and hung up. "He'll be right here. So ... you're forensics? What are you going to do? I heard it was a suicide. It's so awful!"
"Yes, awful," Maggie agreed, debating whether to move her car wherever the girl suggested in case she had to make a number of trips back to it, or get the gist of the situation down first. The Medical Examiner's personnel handled the body, so often in cases of suicide she would take some photographs and collect a few relevant items and that was that. But she had a vague premonition that this one might get more complicated.
A door to her right opened and a tall black man in a white shirt and loosened tie interrupted the girl's questions. He gave Maggie an enthusiastic welcome, which told her he either didn't know the recently deceased Mr. Davis or didn't like him very much.
He ushered her through a long corridor with what appeared to be conference rooms lining either side, and emerged into a cavernous oval with the length and height of an indoor stadium. The ceiling soared at least one hundred feet above them, and half its fluorescent lights had been turned off. The floor area had been filled with desks, clustered in haphazard rows. Large windows lined the north side. Somewhere beyond their inky blackness roiled Lake Erie, in what must be a great view during the daylight hours. The south walls faced the less picturesque visitors' parking lot and Superior Avenue. No one was present at that hour, what was essentially the middle of the night.
Maggie hustled to keep up with Kevin as she took all this in, winding through the churning sea of reporters' desks. Their surfaces were piled with papers, books, all sorts of odds and ends from journalism awards to troll dolls to a miniature slot machine. Maggie liked this space much better than the slick lobby.
Many desks, however, were blank and abandoned.
"We're dying," Kevin noted, matter-of-factly. "We all know it. Print journalism will gasp its last breath within a few years. At least that's what we hear every single day, but there are still die-hard fans who want to read their news, not listen to some wildly biased talking head or have to balance a delicate and breakable piece of electronics just to find out what the weather's going to be. You read the Herald?"
She answered truthfully. "Every day."
"Bless you. I'd kiss you on the mouth right here and now, except we had some kind of sensitivity training last year and apparently I'm not supposed to do that."
"You should have come in by the rear entrance. It's a long walk from here."
"So I heard."
"That's okay, I can give you the tour. I'm Kevin Harding, by the way, Printing Supervisor. I used to be Entertainment Editor, got to do the hard-charging stories like what Princess Kate wore to the Bahamas and the new season at Playhouse Square, but now I have a real job."
"Too bad. Keeping up with the Kardashians sounds like fun."
"Yeah." But his face didn't look as if it had been.
The arena area had a second level — a ring of offices along the outer wall, more than one floor above, nearly two. Only a few were lit, including a large space at the easternmost tip of the oval. The hallway outside these offices had a clear glass railing, giving the illusion that anyone on that walkway had nothing to keep them from falling the considerable distance to the floor below.
It was a very impressive-looking interior, for a staff who functioned within the written word. Maggie loved space and thought it a perfect setting for a newspaper, and wondered if the dramatic surroundings reminded the reporters every day to respect the dramas, large and small, that affected their readers' lives.
Kevin Harding kept walking. "The body is in the offset room. Do you know how a paper is printed?"
"Vaguely. But that's probably changed in the digital age."
"As far as the actual printing is concerned, yes and no." They reached the east wall. He used his key card to exit the lofty atrium, into a space that was equally impressive in a totally different way. Overhead lights burst into illumination as they entered, as if by magic, to reveal a maze of huge and inexplicable machinery. If the atrium represented pure creativity, then this place embodied pure function. The floors were concrete, clean but stained, and so were the walls.
"The master sheet is made on a piece of flexible aluminum, using the reaction of oil and water and ultraviolet light. The point is that the ink sticks to the printed areas and the rest washes away. That's done in here." Her nose wrinkled from the smell, not offensive but definitely chemical as they passed a roomful of paper rolls, most standing on their ends but some on their sides, ready to be rotated into the printing process, and huge drums of liquid ink. The rolls only came up to her chest but were enormously round, and she guessed that they could easily kill someone. Kevin told her they weighed nearly 1900 pounds each.
They entered the next section. "Wow," Maggie said.
Kevin let her take it in. "Yeah, it's pretty impressive."
Though they had been on the ground floor, it became the second level in this room and they took a metal staircase down. 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 spiderweb. The noise drowned out everything else and Kevin had to shout as he led her along.
Excerpted from Unpunished by Lisa Black. Copyright © 2017 Lisa Black. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a boring book! A total waste of a lot of money. I didn't want or care about the running or problems of a newspaper. I tried three different times to finish it but couldn't. Don't waste your time or money.
Unpunished by Lisa Black is the second book in A Gardiner and Renner Thriller series. Maggie Gardiner is called out to the death of a copy editor at the Cleveland Herald. Robert Davis was found strung up from the printing tower platform. When the victim is brought down, it is obvious that Davis was murdered. Detective Jack Renner and his partner, Riley are assigned the case. Things are a little awkward between Maggie and Jack since Maggie discovered Jack’s secret (in That Darkness). Maggie collects the forensics while Jack starts questioning newspaper employees. Soon, though, a second victim is found strung up in his living room. Jerry Wilton, Director of Advertising, for the Cleveland Herald was also strangled. Unfortunately, the killer took things one step further with Wilton (it is gruesome). It looks like someone is targeting employees of the Herald. Then Stephanie Davis, Robert’s wife, is found murdered. What did she stumble across in her husband’s belongings? Whatever Stephanie had discovered about her husband, it got her killed. Will Maggie and Jack be able to find the killer before there is another casualty. I had high hopes for Unpunished after reading That Darkness. I like Jack Renner and Maggie Gardiner. They have such potential as main characters. Unfortunately, Lisa Black did not bring them to life in Unpunished. Maggie did find out more about Jack in this book (which I liked). But, the relationship between Maggie and Jack did not have any spark. I found Unpunished to extremely slow paced. The author put in too many details about the newspaper industry. The book felt more like a monologue about how real newspapers are dying out and are being replaced by digital papers that focus on celebrity gossip (there was more, but I started skipping pages at this point). We also find out how newspapers are run and published (which makes for a very dull mystery novel). I give Unpunished 2 out of 5 stars. The book did not have any suspense, and the killer can be identified early in the story. The author did provide good clues (if you pay very close attention). Unpunished fell short of its potential. If you do read Unpunished, I recommend reading That Darkness first. It gives you necessary background details on the characters and the relationship between Jack and Maggie.
Unpunished by Lisa Black is a police procedural and the second book in a series featuring forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner. This time Robert Davis, a copy editor at the Cleveland Herald, is found hanging off the railing above the print room during the nightly press run for the paper. At first it appears to be a suicide, but upon closer inspection it is clear that Davis was murdered. Maggie Gardier and Jack Renner are involved in the investigation. They have a wary truce and share a secret that could ruin both of them. The investigation includes a mass of information about the death keel of the print news industry today. Can the murderer be found before he or she strikes again? My first advice is to read Lisa Black's That Darkness first. As the second in a series where I somehow missed the first book, That Darkness, I was missing some vital background information on the two characters. Although I could gather the gist of it, I actually wanted more information to help create a complete picture of the two characters. I know they were involved in a case where Maggie figured out Jack was a serial killer/vigilante who eliminated the bad guys who deserved to die. Maggie has a secret that she shares with him and the two have an uneasy truce/agreement. Very intriguing characters, but I had incomplete background information about the two. Setting that aside, figuring out who did it was pretty darn easy in this case, but I think the book was more about these two characters and their uneasy alliance. There is also a plethora of information about the death of the newspaper industry. Black researched the facts and includes a bibliography of the books that helped her research. It was fun to see the case develop and the clues that are followed. The writing is great. I enjoyed following the investigation and I like Maggie, but I wanted the full backstory. Sometimes you can read a mystery series out of order, sometimes you can't. You need to read this series in the order intended. I did enjoy it and was glued to the pages through the whole book. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Kensington Publishing.
Thank you NetGalley for the ARC of Unpunished by Lisa Black that I read and reviewed. The first thing that I am going to do is suggest that you read the first book in the series because it will help you understand Jack and Maggie's deal that is talked about a lot in this book. Things that took place in the first book also are still being dealt with in this book so in order to have a full understanding of what is going on, reading the first book will help. As for Unpunished, I found it fascinating. I loved how Black looked at the newspaper business and how it is dying. Her unique way of having a killer use that industry to show his or her displeasure about what was going on I found very interesting because I use to work in that industry and how she described it brought back so many memories. The irony in the strap the killer used hang the victims was something a journalist would love reading and absolutely get. This was the second book that we, as readers, get to see the pairing of Maggie Gardiner and Jack Renner who I love together even though they are polar opposites. Maggie is the by the book forensic expert and Jack is a cop by day and serial killer at night who have been forced to make a truce and work together and are now trying to find out who is killing people who work at the local newspaper. The chemistry between these two I can't decide if it is a love hate relationship because Maggie hates what Jack does in his spare time or if there is a small sliver of attraction there because you know what they say about love and hate? I guess we will have to see where as the series goes. I kept jumping around guessing who the killer was in Unpunished. Black is a master a leaving hints but making you second or even third guess about what you think is right. Then you pick a suspect and the next thing you know he or she us hanging up by a strap. Guess that one was wrong. On to the next one. This was one of those books. I can't wait to see what Black has planned next for Maggie and Jack in her next book. This is one of those series with a cop as a serial killer you have to ask yourself how long before he gets caught? Unpunished gets five out of five stars.
Maggie and Jack continue their tenuous relationship as they are forced together in the investigation of a series of strange murders at the large, downtown newspaper. New characters and old combine to create a dark and suspenseful story. The murders continue as the clues slowly unravel the motive. Personal relationships between many of the characters provide a continuing distraction to the investigation and keep the mystery level high. The city of Cleveland is well-displayed, with many local attractions depicted as part of the action. This is a good, well-written story that triggers some moral contemplation as well.
From what I can see this is the second Gardiner & Renner Novel. The first being THAT DARKNESS. Black just did not bring forth any emotional characters in this work, The bodies just kept piling up but the "Who done it?" was not suspenseful. Maggie Gardiner is in forensics and Jack Renner is a cop. Their past secrets was the only driving force for me since I had not read the first book. Technology wiping out the newspaper business was narrated over way too many pages. Copy supplied by Kensington Publishing and author through Netgalley.
Maggie Gardiner and Jack Renner were first introduced in THAT DARKNESS. I highly recommend reading THAT DARKNESS before starting this one. Maggie is a forensic expert while Jack is a homicide detective. Jack is a serial killer -- but he only kills the bad guys ... the ones who have never paid for their crimes. Maggie knows this, but she's keeping quite because she also has secrets .. and Jack knows what they are. They've managed to form a truce ... and only pray that no one else discovers what's really going on. A copy editor at the local newspaper is found hanging at work. When Maggie is called in to work her CSI magic, she finds that this is really murder. And because it is murder, she's going to have to deal with Jack, as he is a homicide detective. And then there's another death at the newspaper ... another hanging, another murder. As more bodies fall, Maggie and Jack have to work together to find out why ... and who's next? What ties them all together? I really have enjoyed both books in this series. Jack, although a killer, has his own personal moral and ethical codes. Other than his penchant for vigilante killings, he's quite likeable. Maggie is very proficient in her job, which is how she discovered Jack's "hobby". She doesn't quite trust him, but in this case, she has no other alternative. I've learned everything I would ever want or need to know about the newspaper business. So much of what was written is very contemporary. If you're a fan of forensics, this will be a dream book for you. The author has certainly done her research well. I've been reading Lisa Black for several years ... she just gets better and better. My rating --- 5 for the book, another 5 for the series.
This police procedural has no romance but provides plenty of CSI detail while building the personalities of the main characters solving what proves to be multiple murders that revolve around the newspaper world. I did not know this was the second in a series and might have benefited from reading the first book BUT was able to make heads and tails of this one anyway. I am not sure what the details of the relationship are between Jack and Maggie but there is plenty of tension between them and soul searching on Maggie’s part as they work the case together. In future books I can almost see them becoming close or at least closer as they figure out the dynamics of how their lives might be able to overlap and perhaps mesh into a more comfortable working relationship/friendship…maybe. As for the murder mystery and figuring out who the murderer was – I figure it out fairly early on though I had no idea so many would die and for, in my opinion, so little cause. There was a great deal of information about the demise of print newspapers that I found especially interesting since I have discussed this issue recently with someone who believes in paper copies and is currently subscribing to more of them in hopes that she can help sustain them…at least for a while. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the ARC. This is my honest review.