Friday, July 28, 2023

"What Harms You"

Lisa Black is the New York Times bestselling author of the Gardiner and Renner Novels and the Locard Institute Thrillers featuring Dr. Ellie Carr and Dr. Rachael Davies. 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 certified crime analyst for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes. She is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the International Association for Identification, and the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, and has testified in court as an expert witness over 65 times. Her books have been translated into six languages and she was named finalist for the prestigious Sue Grafton Memorial Award for Perish.

Black applied the Page 69 Test to the latest Locard Institute thriller, What Harms You, and reported the following:
There are two main characters in the Locard Institute series, Dr. Rachael Davies, a former pathologist and now assistant director of the Institute. She is divorced and raising her late sister’s toddler son. Her new friend and employee Ellie Carr, a doctor of forensic science and former FBI agent, orphaned at four and raised by various aunts and uncles in her large and loving family.

But on page 69 is only Rachael, puzzling over the fact that on her last day at work, Dr. Barbara Wright died in the supply closet. Apparently she had accidentally broken a jar of acid, then choked to death on the fumes. Difficult to believe that such a simple misstep could fell a grown, healthy woman…very difficult. So Rachael had succumbed to temptation and processed the pieces of the broken glass jar with superglue.
Rachael lifted each piece and turned it over in her fingers, searching for useful fingerprints, while unsure of what she expected them to tell her. Barbara Wright had had a heart attack and fell in the supply closet. Maybe she’d picked up the jar and dropped it, and the annoyance, the final straw when she had so much on her mind, had agitated her heart into seizure. Maybe she picked it up, then her heart began seizing and she dropped it. Maybe her heart began seizing and she pitched forward, knocking the jar from the shelf. Her fingerprints would or would not be deposited on the jar, depending on which had occurred. Did it really matter?

But why, Rachael thought as she rotated each chunk of brown glass under the bright magnifying light, are no one’s prints on the jar? It hadn’t been brand-new, since she hadn’t found a cellophane seal clinging to the lid. Even if it had been new, whoever had stocked it in the closet would have touched it, unless they were cautious enough around acids to wear gloves even for that simple action.

Rachael groaned inwardly. What was she doing? The woman had a heart attack and died. Yes, Barbara had been relatively young and apparently healthy, but anyone could have a heart attack. High school kids occasionally had heart attacks. And Rachael had perhaps ten minutes before that morning’s session should begin and she hadn’t even dumped her purse in her office yet—

Rachael had had considerable training in psychology and, not for the first time, turned it inward. This is just avoidance, obsessing over unimportant details because you don’t want to face the fact that someone you worked with every day was here one minute and dead the next. You have seven minutes until class is supposed to start. Get moving.

She scribbled Rachael *Don’t touch!* on the box and left it on an empty counter. Then she hustled back down to the anteroom on the first floor, hoping to grab a coffee before facing a room full of people expecting her to tell them something they didn’t already know.

She didn’t make it.
The page is an excellent example of Rachael in action, using her training on a piece of evidence while at the same time weighing all the intangibles of the situation. But if someone read this page only…CSI junkies might be fascinated by the details of how analysis works in real life, while readers who aren’t so into the scientific aspects of crime investigation might groan and think, if the whole book is like this, I’m out.

But they should rest assured, there’s much more to this book than forensic science. The students and staff are an eclectic mix of ages, genders, races and dedication to the cause of justice, but most importantly, one of them is a serial killer. Rachael and Ellie must use clues, questions, logic and bravery to stop someone bold enough to murder in a CSI school.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: That Darkness.

The Page 69 Test: Unpunished.

The Page 69 Test: Perish.

The Page 69 Test: Suffer the Children.

The Page 69 Test: Every Kind of Wicked.

Q&A with Lisa Black.

My Book, The Movie: What Harms You.

--Marshal Zeringue