Friday, April 8, 2011

Spotlight on the UCF Book Festival: Trail of Blood - Lisa Black

The next book that I am highlighting for the UCF Book Festival is "Trail of Blood" by Lisa Black.  I originally received this book at SIBA last fall, and even was able to get it signed by the author.  It has been on the "must read soon" stack" since then, and I'm thrilled to be able to bring it to you today.

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Synopsis:  In 1935, amidst Elliott Ness's shakedown of a corrupt Cleveland police department, the Torso Killer slayed and dismembered over a dozen victims, and was never caught.  One police officer, James Miller, attempting to resist a crooked life like his partner, is hot on the trail of the killer.  One night, however, he becomes another victim, is beheaded and sealed in a hidden closet.  All assume he has abandoned the force and his family.

Seventy-five years later, when the building is scheduled for demolition, his body is discovered.  Theresa McLean, forensic scientist, is assigned to the case with her cousin and police officer Frank.  Soon after the discovery, a new series of murders begin that emulate the Torso Murders so many years ago.  In alternating and synchronized narratives, we follow James Miller in his last days investigating the original murders, and at the same time accompany Theresa in her pursuit of the modern-day copycat.

My thoughts:  Here I am again, picking up a book that is third in a series.  You'd think I did this on purpose!  That being said, the book stands alone fine on its own, with a few references to events that occurred in the first and second installments. 

I loved the way the author wove the two stories together.  I've not seen many murder mysteries where we not only discover long-dead bodies, but then go back and get to walk in the victim's shoes and understand how they met their fate.  Additionally, the murders committed by both the original and the copycat were perfectly choreographed between the two narratives.  Therefore the plot flowed perfectly. 

I also thoroughly enjoyed the characters.  I was almost immediately in James Miller's corner, an honest man, dedicated to his family and doing what was right. His fate, known to us from the very beginning, was heartbreaking.  It was easy to fall into step with Theresa as well.  In this installment, she turns forty, and is fighting the effects of age and moving past her prime.  I am intrigued enough to dip into the back list.

BUT.  I'm not bragging or anything, but people, I guessed the modern-day killer within fifty pages.  I sniff out literary evil-doers I guess.  And this was a little disappointing.  I like to be surprised.  And why OH WHY does the protagonist always have to come head-to-head with the killer at the end, and survive magically when others have not?  Argh. It's not just this book, but 90% of them fall into this trap. 

This complaint, however, was eclipsed by a very solid and compelling narrative, some grisly murders, and the atmosphere of Elliot Ness's Cleveland...very noir, very intriguing, very entertaining.

And you true crime lovers are going to dig this.  There really WAS as Torso Killer in the 1930's in Cleveland, and some of the evidence discussed in the story really existed.  Also very cool tidbit...one of the present day victims in the novel, Kim Hammond, was the name of a woman who won a character name auction in 2009.  Very similar to the auction I won with Connie May Fowler last year (do you think Connie will kill me off?). 

4 out of 5 stars
   

10 comments:

Swapna said...

I totally agree with you about the main character having a run-in with the killer at the end of the book - I get so frustrated with that and love it when books stray from it. I actually picked this book up and was about to start reading it when I realized it was the third in a series, so I need to go back and read the first two.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Hate the magical survival at the end! That's why I like Susan Hill - she's not afraid to kill off the hero!

Julie P. said...

Still sounds like a worthwhile read. Glad to see someone else is picking up book mid-series.

Jenny said...

I'm glad to hear this was mostly good. =) I thought I might try to read this before the UCF thing but that's not going to happen!

The Bumbles said...

I didn't know you are going to be written into Connie May's book! Very fun. I hope she lets you have hot sex with a handsome foreigner or something fun ;0)

bermudaonion said...

A good series is written so you can jump in at any time. I do wonder why the protagonist always has to confront the killer too. sounds like a good book!

Jenners said...

I think it is Lisa Gardner who runs a Kill A Friend contest for each of her books. It would be weird! You must keep us informed about your fate in the Fowler book!

caite said...

It is funny...not in a good way....how mystery writers often fall into the same traps. I have to agree that I love a book sometimes that breaks the mold, like killing off the hero or something really surprising.

but grisly murders? well, that seals it for me!

Darlene said...

This sounds good but I'm such a stickler for reading things in order even if they do stand alone. Glad you liked it!

Dr. Wegmann said...

Hi Sandy,

Just wanted to say thank you for promoting the UCF Orlando Book Festival! THIS Saturday, 9am to 4:30.

I look forward to meeting you in person!

Susan Wegmann