Accidents happen, and Rachael Donahue’s death looks like an accident. In “Suffer the Children,” fourth in Lisa Black’s series about Maggie Gardiner, a forensics investigator for the Cleveland Police Department, Rachael is a resident — not a prisoner, it is emphasized — at Cleveland’s (fictional) Firebird Center for Children and Adolescents, and it is her fatal fall from a third-story balcony that brings Maggie to Firebird.
Also at the scene are Detective Jack Renner and his partner. Maggie has had the uneasiest of relationships with Jack since Book One, “That Darkness,” in which she learned that he moonlights as a serial killer who eliminates those whom he thinks deserve it. Maggie made him agree to stop, but now she is, of course, complicit in his crimes.
Though the residents at Firebird come from high-risk situations, like abusive or absent parents, they are offenders themselves. Some committed nonviolent transgressions, such as truancy, but many are guilty of crimes including murder. One girl stabbed her baby sister; another poisoned her mother with arsenic.
Each child has a very sad story, and one of the saddest belongs to the next to die. It could be natural causes, but Maggie sees some odd things in the clinic where the boy was recovering from strep throat.
Jack couldn’t possibly be responsible for this string of deaths, could he? They’re just children, even though some have irredeemable damage and will never be able to live outside an institution. While Maggie tries to quell her misgivings, her ex-husband Rick is resentful of the time she’s been spending with Jack and is questioning the recent vigilante-style murders of some of Cleveland’s worst criminals. He starts to look into Jack’s background.
This is Black’s strongest book in this series, with its intriguing setting and profusion of suspects among the Firebird staff.
“Suffer the Children” (304 pages, hardcover) costs $26 from Kensington. Lisa Black was a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office. She lives in Cape Coral, Fla.
In G.L. Rockey's "Fake News," it is 2024, and the president is Benjamin Armstrong, a “former ABC sitcom star and converted television evangelist” who hears the voice of God and talks about “innate racial behavioral patterns.” In a nationally televised speech, he tries to incite panic about a terrorist incident in France and uses it as a platform to assure his audience that America is the “trusted architect of mankind’s future ... [a role] that has been thrust upon us by a divine providence.”
Watching at home is Zackary Stearn, publisher of the The Boca, a weekly newspaper in Miami. Zack hangs out at a local cafe owned by a former Special Forces colonel who went a little too far in exposing military and government misdeeds. His wife was a Navy ensign who kept her ears open when she worked on the Presidential yacht, and the cafe also is patronized by a hushed-up group that calls itself the Pi Underground.
The news director of a Miami TV station is approached with a shockingly violent video shot by a man who was fishing. It shows two white police officers assaulting a black woman and doctoring the crime scene to make it look as if she was a drug dealer. The station breaks the video as an exclusive, and the president uses it to stir up more panic, hoping to invoke some convenient bits of the Constitution, like those that allow the commander-in-chief to act without the legislature (for example, invoking martial law) in times of emergency.
The thing is, the video is fake. It’s been phonied up by the president’s media director as a campaign ploy, and Zack’s suspicions lead him to investigate.
“Fake News” is timely and more believable than Rockey’s 2011 novel “Truths of the Heart,” about a Michigan professor and her relationships with a brutish ex-football player and a student.
“Fake News” (298 pages, softcover) costs $15.99 from online retailers. Rockey also is the author of “From the Back of the House: Memories of a Steak House Clan,” about Cleveland’s Jim’s Steak House, founded by Rockey’s great-aunt and great-uncle. G.L. Rockey lives in Broadview Heights.
Kent State University alumna Heidi Johnson-Wright is a contributor to “Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People with Disabilities,” a collection of seven essays by “writers sharing various first-time experiences” with blindness, post-traumatic stress disorder and, like Johnson-Wright, conditions that demand the use of a wheelchair. The book will be available in October from online retailers. Johnson-Wright now lives in Miami.
Local book events
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson): Jane Ann Turzillo signs “Wicked Women of Ohio,” 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday; Don Ake signs his essay collection “Will There Be Free Appetizers? Musings of a Brilliant Idiot,” noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Stark County District Library (Lake Community branch, 565 Market Ave. SW, Lake Township): Wanda Brunstetter, bestselling author of Amish fiction including her latest, “The Christmas Prayer,” and her daughter-in-law and sometime co-author Jean Brunstetter, appear from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday. Register at events.starklibrary.org/events or call 330-877-9975.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Fairview Park branch, 21255 Lorain Road, Cleveland): Mark Dawidziak gives “The Vampire Talk” and signs his books including “The Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Dracula” and “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone,” 7 p.m. Monday. Register at 440-333-4700.
Tuscarawas County Public Library (Sugarcreek branch; 120 S. Broadway): Wanda and Jean Brunstetter appear from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Karamu House (2355 E. 89th St., Cleveland): Shane McCrae, winner of the 2018 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Poetry, reads from “In the Language of My Captor,” 5:39 p.m. Tuesday. Register at https://bit.ly/2NVAWLt.
Tuscarawas County Public Library (121 Fair Ave., New Philadelphia): Wanda and Jean Brunstetter appear from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Medina Performing Arts Center (851 Weymouth Road): Children’s author Shelley Pearsall talks about her work, including “The Seventh Most Important Thing,” 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Blvd.): Anisfield-Wolf jurist Steven Pinker, author of “Enlightenment Now,” talks with jury chair Henry Louis Gates Jr., 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Register at Clevelandart.org.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Green branch, 4046 Massillon Road): Anita Fox talks about “Bobby’s Journey with His Best Friend, Jesus,” 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Portage Lakes branch, 4261 Manchester Road, New Franklin): The Mystery Book Club hosts Julie Anne Lindsey, author of “The Sheriff’s Secret” and “A Geek Girl’s Guide to Justice,” who also writes as Bree Baker, Julie Chase and Jacqueline Frost, 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.): Cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar, author of “Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation,” talks about “Heart: A History,” 7 p.m. Thursday. Register at hudsonlibrary.org or call 330-650-6658.
Mac’s Backs (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights): Canadian author Georgia Webber signs her graphic novel “Dumb,” about the challenge of voicelessness, 7 p.m. Thursday.
Worthington Yards (725 Johnson Court, Cleveland): Anisfield-Wolf Award winner Kevin Young talks about “Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News,” 6 p.m. Friday. Register at https://bit.ly/2QDWQS2.
East Cleveland Public Library (11401 Euclid Ave.): The Great Lakes Black Authors Expo and Writers Conference features keynote speaker Tayari Jones (“Leaving Atlanta”), panels on fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, marketing, poetry, urban fiction and religion, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Register at glbaexpo.com.
Barnes & Noble (7900 Mentor Ave., Mentor): Tom Levenick signs “Buckeyes for Life: Insider Views of the Most Elite Program in College Athletics,” 1 p.m. Saturday.
Cleveland Public Library (525 Superior Ave.): Author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Gordon James talk about “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,” winner of Newbery, Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator honors and a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, 2 p.m. Saturday.
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or email@example.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.