Evidence of Murder by Lisa Black

Candle-Ends: Reviews
Theryn Fleming

While most of my co-editors are into science fiction and fantasy, my favorite types of genre fiction are mysteries and thrillers. That’s why I was excited to learn that one of Toasted Cheese‘s first contest winners has become a bona fide mystery writer.

Lisa Black has published four novels about forensic scientist Theresa “Tess” MacLean: Takeover (2008), Evidence of Murder (2009), Trail of Blood (2010), and Defensive Wounds (2011). The fifth, Blunt Impact, is forthcoming in 2013.

Evidence of Murder is the second in the series but, like most mystery series, enough background information is sprinkled throughout the book that not having read the first doesn’t detract from this story. Some of that background might, however, be considered a spoiler to Takeover, so if you’re a fanatic about that sort of thing, you’ll probably want to read the books in order.

Jillian Perry is found frozen in the woods, seated next to a tree. The cause of death is not apparent. Did she freeze to death? Was it an accident? Suicide? Murder? She has a new baby, an even newer husband, and until recently worked as an escort for a sketchy character with a criminal past. She’s estranged from her parents—and, oh yeah, she has a stalker. His name is Drew Fleming. I have to admit Black won me over with this detail. (Your mileage may vary.) I love it when my namesakes are persons of interest. Just ask Baker.

The twist of Theresa being a forensic scientist, rather than a detective, police officer or lawyer, isn’t unfamiliar, with the many crime scene procedurals on television, but here the premise felt fresh, perhaps because Black’s real-life background as a latent fingerprint examiner and crime scene investigator lends authenticity to the scientific details. She’s obviously familiar with her setting, Cleveland, as well.

Supporting characters include the requisite cast of quirky lab mates, a gaggle of Theresa’s relatives—the most of important of these being her police detective cousin and her teenage daughter, and a hostage negotiator who doubles as a potential love-interest. Most of these characters only played a small role in this book, but Black has established a good base to build on as the series progresses.

There are numerous suspects and red herrings but, as the title suggests, ultimately, the real mystery isn’t so much the identity of the murderer, but the method. This makes sense, given Theresa’s profession, but I think it makes it more difficult to write a satisfying ending. Part of the fun of reading a mystery is attempting to arrive at the solution on your own—and I don’t think that was possible here. That said, Black’s writing style is very readable and Evidence of Murder is a quick and entertaining read that convinced me the rest of the series is worth checking out.


Evidence of Murder made The New York Times mass-market fiction best seller list in October 2010. Lisa Black’s story “In the Bleak December” placed second in the first annual Dead of Winter Writing Contest. She has also published two novels as Elizabeth Becka, Trace Evidence (2005) and Unknown Means (2008). Her website is Lisa-Black.com.


Email: beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com