Review

Unknown Means

by Elizabeth Becka

Elizabeth Becka knows Cleveland, and intimately so. Though she
has left that city's Coroner’s Office for the more hospitable
climes of Cape Coral, Florida, to work as a police forensic
specialist, there is little, if anything, about her former home
that has escaped her memory.

Becka’s debut novel, 2007’s TRACE EVIDENCE, garnered
popular and critical acclaim on multiple levels, from its dead-on
portrayal of the widely diverse neighborhoods of Cleveland to
Evelyn James, the tough and tender heroine who balances her
professional life as a forensic specialist in the city’s
Medical Examiner’s Office with her personal life as a single
mother of a teenaged daughter. Becka, James and the City of
Cleveland return in UNKNOWN MEANS, wherein Becka combines classic
mystery elements with contemporary thriller themes to provide her
growing number of readers with another winner.

Grace Markham, one of the wealthy ladies who lunch, is found dead
in the penthouse suite that she shares with her husband. The suite
is located in a high-end, high-security building, the door
wasn’t forced open and the building’s surveillance
system shows absolutely nothing untoward. The number one suspect in
Markham’s murder, her husband, has an airtight alibi as
well, even though he has a strong motive for wanting her life to
end. When another woman is found dead across town in Lakewood, an
old-money neighborhood, and a close friend of James is also
attacked, it becomes clear that what had appeared to be an
extremely unfortunate but nonetheless random series of events
isn’t necessarily random at all.

Cleveland homicide detective David Milaski is assigned to
investigate the murders, which, given James’s personal and
tumultuous involvement with him, causes professional and emotional
complications for both of them, not the least of which concern
James’s daughter, who is caught between feeling neglected and
seeking adolescent independence. Dogged police work and some
interesting forensic studies bring James and Milaski closer to the
killer, resulting in an exciting and claustrophobic conclusion that
will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Becka apparently departed Cleveland with a suitcase full of notes
regarding the minutiae of the city, both political and personal, as
she never seems to miss a beat when intertwining the cultural
background of one of America’s most quietly intriguing
metropolises with a first-rate mystery puzzle. And that forensic
element in the book? You’ll never go into a high-rise office
building without thinking, at least twice, about UNKNOWN MEANS. I
can’t wait for the third installment.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

Unknown Means
by Elizabeth Becka

  • Publication Date: February 5, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • ISBN-10: 1401301754
  • ISBN-13: 9781401301750