Defensive Wounds by Lisa Black

March 29, 2013

Plot summary (from the publisher): In this fourth novel in Lisa Black’s captivating suspense series, forensic investigator Theresa MacLean finds herself embroiled in a case in which high-powered defense attorneys start turning up dead.

When Marie Corrigan, a Cleveland defense attorney with a history of falsifying evidence, is found dead at the Ritz-Carlton, most would agree that she had it coming. Before entering the crime scene, Theresa knows she’s walking into a forensic nightmare—for hotels are teeming with trace evidence. But what she finds is even worse than she imagined.

Then two more bodies show up in quick succession, and Theresa’s investigation takes on a whole new urgency as authorities suspect they have a serial killer on their hands. But as she searches for the connection between the victims, Theresa begins to fear that both she and her daughter are closer to danger than they realize. And a mother will stop at nothing to protect the life of her child.

Warning: Major spoilers below!


  • I thought the author played fair in terms of distributing clues throughout the book. Once the killer was revealed as the mother of Jenna (the raped/murdered teen whose “killer” the newly murdered defense attorneys helped set free), I was surprised but did not feel cheated in the least because the clues were there.
  • The pacing of the novel was pretty good. There were a couple of boring spots, but overall the action was consistent and kept me turning the pages.
  • Theresa MacLean seemed like a decent protagonist. She wasn’t a superwoman know-it-all (which I HATE). She was smart and competent, which is far more believable.
  • I liked that the Rachel/William thread ended up tying in with the main plot. At first I was worried that the author was just wasting time having Theresa fret over her daughter’s new boyfriend who was accused of rape and murder as a juvenile. I thought it would simply lead to inane bickering between the characters. However, the fact that the attorneys’ deaths were directly related in the form of misguided revenge made the whole subplot worthwhile.


  • I realize that the main character (and author) are forensic scientists, but I thought way too much time was spent going over the details of how Theresa documented the crime scene — especially when it came to Sonia Battle’s death. That scene felt like it took forever and really ground the action down to a complete halt.
  • The book was a bit predictable in places. For example, the first time Rachel led Theresa up to the observation deck to meet William, I knew someone would die by falling off the building.
  • The author was way too vehement in her distaste for defense attorneys. Theresa and her cop friends practically cheered the killing of Marie Corrigan, and even given a second and third chance to modify her reaction, Theresa refused to do so. Instead, she persisted in saying the world was better off without Marie in it. I found that extremely hypocritical coming from a woman who spent most of the novel worrying about the possible death of her own daughter. Hey, Theresa: Marie was someone’s daughter too, ya know.


Defensive Wounds was my first Lisa Black novel, and based on the entertainment value I found in the book, I’m willing to give some of her other work a try. I think I read that this book was actually the fourth in a series, so maybe I’ll go back and try to read the rest in order. While Defensive Wounds brought nothing new to the table as a police procedural, it was better than a lot of similar titles I’ve read recently. I give it 3 stars out of 5.

Leave a Reply