That Darkness (A Gardiner and Renner Novel) - Lisa Black

3.5 stars


There's moral question at the heart of this police procedural involving the hunt for a serial killer. What if all the victims are perpetrators of horrific crimes who the justice system failed to put away?


Jack Renner has no problem with their demise. In fact, he's the killer. The tricky part is juggling his day job as one of the detectives trying to solve the cases.

It's not so clear cut for Maggie Gardiner, a forensic tech with the Cleveland PD who spends hours collecting & analyzing trace evidence from the crime scenes. Her encyclopedic knowledge & acute observational skills gradually make her wonder if the killer is someone who has a lot of experience with homicides. Like a cop, maybe.


From the get-go it's clear these two are on a collision course & it's an interesting set up. As the body count rises, the MC's circle closer & closer to each other as they work together as part of the team chasing down leads. 


Despite a great premise, a couple of things prevented me from getting completely pulled into the story. Both MC's are solitary people & we spend a lot of time in their heads. But there is little character development & by the last chapter, I felt I knew them no better than I did at the beginning. In the final pages (strongest part of the book IMHO) some background info is revealed that helped me understand them a bit more.


The other thing was the amount of space devoted to forensic information. I guessed early on the author has a background in the field & her passion is obvious. But for someone picking up a thriller, the frequent long passages describing every fibre & how it's tested may be more than they need to know. It slows the pace & when my eyes started glazing over I began skimming ahead to find either something happening or some dialogue. It could easily be edited without affecting plot lines, leaving more space to explore the characters & their relationships.


But I kept reading just to find out how it all shakes out when the truth is revealed. The ending sets the stage for book #2 & if it's a more character driven story, I'd be curious to see what Jack & Maggie get up to next.  If you're a huge fan of CSI-type shows, you may enjoy it more than I did.