Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Suffer the Children"

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office she analyzed many forms of trace evidence as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI in Florida and is the author of thirteen traditionally published novels. Some of which have been translated into six other languages, one has been optioned for film and one reached the New York Times bestseller’s list. The latest is Suffer the Children, which involves forensic scientist Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner in a series of deaths inside a center for violent children.

Black applied the Page 69 Test to Suffer the Children and reported the following:
Suffer the Children takes place inside the Firebird Center, a juvenile detention facility for troubled and violent children, a demographic with which neither forensic scientist Maggie nor homicide detective Jack has had much experience. A fifteen-year-old girl with two murders already under her belt has been found at the bottom of a stairwell. Fell? Jumped? Pushed? Maggie applies her forensic expertise to the scene while Jack interviews doctors, therapists and less-than-communicative juveniles. Another violent death, of course, is just around the corner, but on page 69 no one knows it yet.

Maggie is doing her thing at an unrelated crime scene, where her boss tries to engage her in a very subtle heart-to-heart—the fact that her life has radically changed since meeting Jack Renner has not gone unnoticed. But there have been other traumas to blame that on, an attack by a knife-wielding rapist, a drive-by shooting, a near-throttling and having her shoulder dislocated while saving Jack from a fatal fall, so her co-workers believe all she needs is a little talk therapy. They have no idea what she’s really done, and when a phone call summons her back to the juvenile center she is saved from her boss’s curiosity.

In the next paragraph we skip back in time one hour, as detectives Jack and his partner Riley arrive at the juvenile detention facility. The handsome and apparently caring second-in-command, Dr. Quintero, fusses about bad publicity but only because the center is desperate to expand their services and take in even more disturbed and neglected children. Jack is listening with only a fraction of his attention—he doesn’t expect this case to go anywhere, expects that the girl’s death was a simple accident and one that will not be repeated inside that facility.

He’s about to discover how wrong he is.

This page is very representative of the characters—Maggie, hardworking and troubled, Jack dogged and impatient—but occurs at a bit of a lull in the action. They believe the case is over, that they’ve done all they can and won’t be revisiting the Firebird Center any time soon. But on page 70 they will run into—literally—the next victim.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

--Marshal Zeringue