Review: “That Darkness,” Lisa Black

Pros: Makes fiber analysis and fingerprints interesting
Cons: The ending and material leading up to it
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Lisa Black’s That Darkness (A Gardiner and Renner Novel) immediately pits Maggie Gardiner (a super-stubborn forensics expert with the police) against Jack Renner (a cop who’s carrying out vigilante-style killings). Can she figure out he’s the suspect she’s trailing? Who will she side with if she catches him? Will her personal investigation get her killed?


I like Maggie as a character, but she often seems to fail at making obvious connections. It took way too long for her to put two plus two together. It made sense that it took some time, but later on in the book there are things that should have added up for her. There are also elements to her personality that made some of her actions later in the book seem implausible.

Jack does quite a number of singularly stupid things. He didn’t even imagine that something like fiber trace could cause him a problem, and he should have known that existed. For a serial killer he’s incredibly bad at keeping a straight face or coming up with explanations for what he’s doing. He’s also very unlikable (IMO), so I kept wishing for him to get caught.

At times we end up in Jack’s head for a bit; these pieces tend to bog down the pacing and go on longer than necessary–I found that they made him even more unlikable. We even get an infodump on a house with the exceedingly flimsy excuse that he looked it up on Wikipedia. I imagine that was a case of an author having found something cool and wanting to find a place to include it. Such attempts are often really obvious and counterproductive.

The book does go into some deeper explanations of how fingerprint and fiber analysis work, which was fun to read. (It was more toward the beginning of the book, so it didn’t derail the pacing.) I also liked the personalities of the rest of the cops Maggie was working with. Roughly the first half of the book was pretty good; it’s too bad it went downward.

I couldn’t buy into the ending at all. If you want more details on why and don’t mind spoilers, I’ll explain:

Maggie comes across as a real straight arrow, so I was surprised that the possibility of her covering for Jack was even raised, let alone that she’d seriously consider it. I just couldn’t buy into it, especially after how squirrely and weird Jack had been with her–I certainly wouldn’t trust him.
End spoilers


Book provided free by publisher for review
Expected publication date: April 26, 2016

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