ECHOES IN THE DARKNESS by Joseph Wambaugh. This story of a looking-for-love schoolteacher who falls for a co-worker with the gift of gab and little else was one of my first introductions to what true crime could be: fascinating, twisty, sad, tedious, sometime humorous, very, very real and all written by one of the most deft, sure hands ever.

PROPHET OF DEATH by Pete Earley. I found this case of the self-proclaimed prophet who killed an utterly unsuspecting family of five of his own followers splashed across my local paper one snowy morning. In another few years I would be working at the Cleveland area coroner’s office which investigated the murders.

THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. Preston is known for writing the Agent Pendergast series with Lincoln Child, but for a while he lived in Italy and found that a never-identified serial killer had operated in a nearby grove during the seventies and eighties. He and reporter Mario Spezi engaged in some investigative journalism only to have the annoyed police decide that Spezi must be the killer. I regret to say that when I first joined International Thriller Writers I received the email that Preston sent out asking for petition signatures to help free Spezi, I didn’t know anything about Preston at that point, wimped out, and hit Delete. I was too embarrassed to tell him that when we finally met. Spezi was eventually freed, the book finished, and now I feel much less surprised at the Amanda Knox debacle.

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE by Ann Rule. I love all of Ann Rule’s work, but this one is special to me for two reasons: it takes place in a city only an hour from where I live, and I sort of won it. Before publishing my first book I participated in an online short thriller story contest. I came in second and the prize was a $15 gift certificate to a bookstore, which I spent on Every Breath You Take. I then wrote Ann Rule to tell her this and got a very nice email from her daughter, Leslie, who was answering her emails during book tour time. This stunned me. I actually got an email from Ann Rule’s daughter!

METHLAND by Nick Reding. The TV show Breaking Bad had just begun and I decided to research methamphetamine-cooking as a plot. Methland details the progression of the epidemic in America and how very different this drug is from most other abused pharmaceuticals, both physically and socially, and Reding describes the people involved with empathy and yet utter clarity. The insights gained became a large part of the story in my most recently published book, THE PRICE OF INNOCENCE.


Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s office she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department and the author of eight published novels, with some translated into six other languages and on the NYT mass market bestseller’s list.