Unpunished by Lisa Black (Kensington, January 31, 2017) is a Maggie Gardiner and Jack Renner mystery. Maggie is a police forensics tech, and Jack is a homicide detective. When key staff at the last remaining Cleveland daily newspaper are brutally murdered in the busy and noisy press room, Maggie and Jack are forced to work together to find the killer. Lisa Black provides enough back story so readers needn’t have read That Darkness, her previous novel in the Gardiner and Renner series, to feel the palpable tension between her two protagonists. The secret they share is enough to send both of them to prison for life if either of them talks: Jack is the hunted “Vigilante Killer” and Maggie, not Jack, actually pulled the trigger on the Vigilante’s last victim.
One major complication: Maggie’s ex-husband is also a homicide cop and he’s been assigned to track down the “Vigilante Killer” and bring him to justice.
Besides lots of forensic details designed to please mystery lovers and readers of police procedurals, this novel is chock-full of fascinating and accurate newspaper lure. In fact, the press-room murders are themselves symbolic of the death of print journalism in America in the digital age. Will the Cleveland Herald survive the deaths of its senior copy editor, the circulation manager, and others who daily expose and inform the public of the greed and corruption in our midst? Will Maggie and Jack survive to expose the killer? Will Maggie and Jack be exposed themselves?
I, of course, loved this novel. As a crime novelist and ex-newspaperman, I appreciated the details Black wove into the storyline as much as I appreciated the dialog and characterizations. I bought That Darkness after reading Unpunished, and I look forward to reading it and all future Gardiner and Renner novels.