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Theresa MacLean Books In Order

Publication Order of Theresa MacLean Books

Takeover (2008) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Evidence of Murder (2009) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Trail of Blood (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Defensive Wounds (2011) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Blunt Impact (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Price of Innocence (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Close to the Bone (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle


The Theresa MacLean Series by Cleveland author Lisa Black is a string of seven books published between 2008 and 2014. The series was based on the life of its author, who worked for five years in morgue forensics. Black drew inspiration for her character, Theresa MacLean, from mystery crime writers Jeffery Deaver and Kathy Reichs. MacLean is a hardboiled female forensic investigator based out of Cleveland. Lisa Black’s last decade has been particularly fecund with crime writings; the Theresa MacLean series alone spans over twenty-three-hundred pages.

Theresa MacLean is introduced to readers on an early Cleveland Thursday in the 2008 book Takeover. The forensic scientist is called to a crime scene out in the suburbs: a man is found dead on the front lawn of the caller’s house. His head is bashed in from behind. The narrator remarks that, even though Theresa has seen worse in her time as a forensic scientist, this sight is not the best way to start her day. It isn’t long after MacLean inspects the crime scene when she is alerted that her fiance, a police detective working for the Cleveland Division of Police, is being taken hostage. The perpetrators are two “mastermind” criminals who are using Theresa’s fiance and six others as pawns in a Federal Reserve Bank heist. By the time Theresa arrives on the scene, Cleveland’s “best hostage negotiator” Chris Cavanaugh is attempting to take control of the situation. The narrator describes Cavanaugh as handsome and high-profile, and remarks to the reader that he has yet to lose a victim. Despite this, Theresa has her doubts: Cavanaugh’s hubris might be his tragic flaw this time around.

Theresa MacLean’s fiance is injured in a quick skirmish inside the Federal Reserve, and Theresa offers to trade places with him. Once on the inside, Theresa brings all her technical skills and experience dealing with criminals forward to try to take control of the situation. When Theresa thinks that she is about to finally outwit the clever criminals, she is both disappointed and bewildered to learn that this seemingly commonplace bank heist was a facade for something much more deadly, dastardly, and complex. It isn’t long before Theresa realizes that it is up to her to decide how much she is willing to give to save the lives of the six other hostages. In Takeover, Lisa Black demonstrates the personality of her Theresa MacLean character beyond the surface. By way of both Theresa’s cunning and the decisions Theresa makes when put in difficult situations, Black shows the reader MacLean’s deepest personality traits. Takeover moves away from the standard crime thriller format to incorporate psychological depth and Black’s views on utilitarianism, self-sacrifice, and the concept of moral justness. Furthermore, given Black’s history as a forensic scientist herself, the reader can trust that Black will exhaust her knowledge of forensic technicality in order to save Theresa from the toughest and most deadly situations.

In Lisa Black’s third Theresa MacLean novel, Trail of Blood, Theresa conducts an investigation that reminds the Cleveland newspapers of a Great Depression-era madman nicknamed the Torso Killer. This infamous lunatic, now possibly over a century old, was credited with over a dozen murders throughout the entire city of Cleveland over the course of four years. Theresa MacLean is notified by the police when a sealed wall in an abandoned building is opened to reveal a decapitated and dessicated body. The body is too decomposed to put a date to its death, but the police assume that the corpse must be a newly discovered Torso Killer victim, due to its tell-tale decapitation. The sealed room and decayed body leave no clues that a normal forensic scientist could pick up on, but Theresa decides to take the case anyways. She wants to use the new evidence to see if she can finally pin down the identity of the Torso Killer. Theresa sees the shedding of light on this piece of history as her duty as a Cleveland citizen. This goal is soon addled by the appearance of a new, recently deceased corpse.

Theresa’s investigation shifts rapidly from a historical case-study to the aversion of an all-too-present danger. The new finding has all the indications of the Torso Killer’s doing, but the suspected murderer was suspected to have been killed nearly a century prior. New murders in the Torso Killer’s vein continuously show up, and the police decide that nobody is more qualified than Theresa, who has been adamantly studying the first corpse, to take the case. Soon, Theresa finds herself in increasingly dangerous situations. She suspects that the killer is watching her, and she begins to see suspicious characters everywhere she goes. Theresa finally finds herself face to face with the killer in a railroad switchyard, only to find herself alone again after a speeding train obscures her encounter. It isn’t long until Theresa realizes that she is investigating into little more than a lunatic’s deadly and perverse fantasy; the new Torso Killer is mimicking the actions of the old in order to relive a nostalgia for which he was never present.

Once again, Lisa Black wanders from the path of the standard crime thriller in order to delve into psychologically challenging themes. Trail of Blood utilizes an innovative dual-storyline technique in which the first and second Torso Killers are presented committing their crimes both simultaneously and a century apart. By choosing this method of storytelling, Black raises multiple questions to the reader: What is the purpose of nostalgic obsession? What causes people to glorify madmen, criminals, and lunatics? Why does the human consciousness allow itself to be altered by mimicry? Trail of Blood is based on a true piece of Cleveland history that Lisa Black grew up pondering. By way of the story of Theresa MacLean’s investigation, Black is able to construct the image of the twelve original murders of the Torso Killer in full. Black displays the transition of these individuals from human beings, terrifyingly murdered,into meaningless piece of folklore. It is as if these individuals were murdered twice: once by the killer, and once by time. By finally bringing justice to these century old cases, Theresa MacLean is finally able to put the memories of these people to rest.

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