Four bodies, each with a single bullet wound in the back of the head, stacked like cordwood in a weed-choked vacant lot: That's the front-page news facing Carter Ross, investigative reporter with the Newark Eagle-Examiner. Immediately dispatched to the scene, Carter learns that the four victims--an exotic dancer, a drug dealer, a hustler, and a mama's boy--came from different parts of the city and didn't seem to know one another.
The police, eager to calm jittery residents, leak a theory that the murders are revenge for a bar stickup, and Carter's paper, hungry for a scoop, hastily prints it. Carter doesn't come from the streets, but he understands a thing or two about Newark's neighborhoods. And he knows there are no quick answers when dealing with a crime like this.
Determined to uncover the true story, he enlists the aide of Tina Thompson, the paper's smoking-hot city editor, to run interference at the office; Tommy Hernandez, the paper's gay Cuban intern, to help him with legwork on the streets; and Tynesha Dales, a local stripper, to take him to Newark's underside. It turns out that the four victims have one connection after all, and this knowledge will put Carter on the path of one very ambitious killer.
Treading the same literary turf as Harlan Coben, and writing with a fresh Jersey voice, Brad Parks makes an energetic, impressive debut.
Parks's entertaining debut introduces an appealing hero, 31-year-old investigative reporter Carter Ross of the Newark (N.J.) Eagle-Examiner. When the bodies of four men, "each with a single bullet wound in the back of the head," turn up in a vacant lot, Ross doesn't buy the police theory that the quadruple homicide was the result of a bar robbery gone bad. Despite his white upper-class background, Ross works the streets well, if not fearlessly, in his search for a link among the victims. Parks ratchets up the tension by occasionally interjecting the viewpoint of "the Director," who orchestrated the slayings. Colorful supporting characters plus Ross's grit and determination keep the story moving at a good clip. Parks, a former print journalist himself, knows his way around a newsroom as the laments for the newspaper industry and the digs at TV reporters attest. Readers are likely to figure out the shadowy Director's identity before the intrepid reporter, but this is a quibble. (Dec.)
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December 07, 2009
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