Unpunished (Gardiner and Renner #2)

by Lisa Black

I’ve been given the chance to review Unpunished – Lisa Black’s second book in the Maggie Gardiner series. I have not read the first book, so this review may benefit people who are looking at the novel as a whole, rather than part of a series.
The plot is one of a classic detective novel, only the hero is a rather grey police worker and not an all mighty DC or DCI: Gardiner is a forensic expert who studies the crime scene and handles the post death technicalities. The other main character is Jack Renner, a homicide cop who’s a vigilante serial killer “at night”, but one with an ethical code of disposing only of the bad guys. If you had read “That Darkness” you would have known this by now as well as the fact that Gardiner is the only living soul who shares Jack’s secret.
The mystery revolves around the murder of a copy editor at the Cleveland Herald, who is found hanging above the grinding wheels of the newspaper assembly line. When more newspaper employees are killed, Maggie and Jack continue their unholy partnership, in an effort to uncover the eluding killer.

I liked “Unpunished”. It has the elements of a classic thriller, and Albeit it is secretly an exaggerated editorial advocating for the dying American news industry, it was still fun to see murders taking place above and under the printing press wheels. Sure, the journalistic facts (told mainly by the suspects) were tedious and all too lecture-y, but the story is well written and like any good thriller you’ll find it nearly impossible to guess who is the culprit.

The one thing that I thought the book had lacked, and that’s something I tend to look for in a series within the crime detective genre, is whether the novel can stand alone or not. And to be honest, it can’t. I immediately wanted to find out more about the incident that entangled Maggie Gardiner with Jack Renner – and even though on its own that’s not a bad thing – it still goes to show that if we take the element of their relationship out of “Unpunished”, it might have been a bit boring and one dimensional.

Having said that, the killer and now accomplice crime fighters are there, and “Unpunished” is interesting and gripping. I especially liked Gardiner as a CSI grey-worker who is the centre of things, and would have loved to see her character evolve a bit more… Luckily it’s a series 🙂 3 stars .. 3.5 on a better day.