Monday, September 10, 2018

Lisa Black

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office she analyzed many forms of trace evidence as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI in Florida and is the author of thirteen traditionally published novels. Some of which have been translated into six other languages, one has been optioned for film and one reached the New York Times bestseller’s list. The latest is Suffer the Children, which involves forensic scientist Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner in a series of deaths inside a center for violent children.

Recently I asked Black about what she was reading. Her reply:
My most recent release, Suffer the Children, has my forensic scientist Maggie and homicide detective Jack investigating a series of murders at a juvenile detention facility. This facility is trying very hard to be forward-thinking and progressive in providing the best programs for the children in its care, mostly teenagers, most of whom have committed violent acts including murder. So not having any children of my own I had to do a great deal of research in violent children, the treatment of violent children, dysfunctional families, foster programs and juvenile detention facilities--but one book that stuck in my head the most was called One Small Boat. This memoir of a foster mother was written by Kathy Harrison. She and her husband had a daughter of their own but took in a lot of foster girls over the years. They stuck with girls because it just made things easier in terms of sleeping arrangements, clothing, toys etc. This book convinced me that every child’s story is different so every child needs a situation that’s tailored to their issues. Despite the grim-sounding outline it was a fun book to read; the narrator has a very no-nonsense way of talking that’s human and relatable.

Among her charges were many young orphans--for instance there was a girl that was literally feral, not quite having been abused so much is simply neglected, raised in a cabin that she wasn’t able to leave. She knew very few words and had apparently never had a bath in her entire life.

Then there was a long-running case of a girl of about six, who had been molested by her mother‘s boyfriend. The mother had immediately dropped the boyfriend but was a disinterested (to put it mildly) woman who simply didn’t want to raise a child but was trying to hang onto custody only at the behest of her mother; the grandmother was quite wealthy and couldn’t stand the embarrassment of having such an unproductive daughter. This went back-and-forth for a while because of course the focus in foster care is always to try to reunite the family, if it all possible. But the child harbored such resentment at her mother, who she believed knew about this molestation, that a reunion wasn’t truly wished for on either side. Then just as the author decides to adopt this girl, the girl’s father reappears.

Another little girl had schizophrenic parents, who adored her. But occasionally they would go off their meds, and the neighbors would find the girl hungry and cold and dirty out in the hallway. Yet her parents loved her and wanted her back so she was an odd combination of spoiled and neglected at the same time.

Then two little sisters found living with their abusive family in the back of a van. On the surface their manners were perfect, but in secret the older one acted out. The younger one was an angelic-looking thing with blonde ringlets and huge blue eyes, but the author saw a budding sociopath. The girl was adopted, and as much as the author felt she may be releasing a wolf into a group of sheep, she had to say nothing and err on the side of hope.

The stories were as fascinating as they were individual, and gave me a new appreciation for anyone who would have the love and patience and understanding to be a foster parent.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: Suffer the Children.

--Marshal Zeringue