Friday, October 10, 2014

"Close to the Bone"

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 in Florida. Her books have been translated into six languages and one reached the New York Times mass market bestseller’s list.

Black applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Close to the Bone, and reported the following:
Close to the Bone hits forensic scientist Theresa MacLean where it hurts, bringing death and destruction to the one place where she should feel the most safe—the coroner’s office in Cleveland, Ohio, where she has worked for the past fifteen years of her life. Theresa returns there in the wee hours after working a routine crime scene, only to find the body of one of her co-workers slowly cooling with the word “Confess” written in his blood. Another deskman (the guys who check bodies in and out, take initial reports and do a lot of heavy lifting) is missing and presumed guilty, but Theresa isn’t so sure. The body count begins to ramp up but for once these victims aren’t strangers; they are Theresa’s friends and colleagues, and everyone in the building is on the hit list including Theresa and her BFF, Don. This creates a multitude of stresses for Theresa—her friends are dying, she refuses to condemn the missing deskman and her protective instincts go into high gear whenever it comes to Don, a younger man for whom she has long harbored not-so-maternal feelings. On top of that her homicide detective cousin is on vacation and the investigation falls to a stranger, Sergeant Shephard, an unknown quantity in her world.

But page 69, I have to admit, is hardly the most exciting page in the book. Theresa, Don, and Shephard are mulling over clues in the lab and even the secretary has grown bored with them and gone back to her phones. Theresa has just told the two men that a palm print found on a piece of evidence does not match their missing deskman, which disintegrates Shephard’s theory of the crime. All three of them brainstorm ideas of what this could mean in their current context.

While short on action, this page does show Theresa’s expertise in her chosen field, and the respect of her peers regarding this expertise. She knows fingerprints and she knows evidence. She also demonstrates both her loyalty and her realism when it comes to her colleagues. She won’t assume the missing deskman’s guilt until she’s sure of it.

I would hope this page would make a reader want to see how these three people hash out a solution, especially since by the end of the chapter Theresa will have worked through the logic to a major revelation. And by the middle of the book, everything about the situation will have changed.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

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--Marshal Zeringue