Author: Brad Parks
Pages: 336 (hardcover)
Selected By: Lady Esbe
Lady Esbe’s Score:
“Investigative reporter Carter Ross finds himself with gruesome front-page news: four bodies in a vacant lot, each with a single bullet in the back of the head. In a haste to calm residents, local police leak a story to Carter’s colleagues at the Newark Eagle-Examiner, calling the murders revenge for a bar stickup. But while Carter may not come from the streets, he knows a few things about Newark’s ghettos. And he knows the story the police are pushing doesn’t make sense. He enlists the aide of Tina Thompson, the paper’s smoking-hot city editor, to run interference for him at the office; Tommy Hernandez, the paper’s gay Cuban intern, to help him with legwork on the street; and Tynesha Dales, a local stripper, to take him to Newark’s underside. Soon, Carter learns the four victims have one connection after all, and knowing this will put him in the path of one very ambitious killer.” – from the Amazon summary.
Lady Esbe’s Review
I was invited to the author’s talk and book signing at Christopher Newport University. Not being familiar with his work, I decided I would pick up his first publication and read it before attending. Let me say I’m pleasantly surprised. The author is a journalist turned novelist and his methodology of writing is clearly influenced by his experiences as a journalist and life experiences in general. Having attended the event, Mr. Parks is as much a character and very animated, as his main character, Carter Ross. He admits he loosely based the character on himself from physique to some character “flaws”, such as drinking Coke Zero in excess. However, what I found is that I enjoyed the pace of the novel, the interactions that Carter had as well as how he worked his leads to write a darn good yarn.
We are introduced to Carter Ross as a Newark print newspaper journalist, making his way in the times of the dying print newspaper. He is competent, snarky, talented and downright funny. I even enjoyed the fact that he named his cat Deadline. Carter isn’t overly confident, nor does he come off as an arrogant master craftsman. In fact, he comes off as someone who slightly insecure, but well secure in his insecurities. He knows he is considered handsome if even moderately so, however, he doesn’t let this go to his head. However, he takes a great deal of pride in his craft and I can appreciate that about him.
Now, with the story being explained from the point of view of journalist, I was curious as to how the criminal elements would play out. All I can say is, it was with humor and confidence. Mr. Parks weaves a tale in manner of laying out facts of the case, in the very discoverable way that a reporter may find the leads in his story. Carter knows that four unconnected people being killed at the same time, in the same manner was strange to say the least and big, even by Newark’s standards. He dug and combed the areas to get the leads he needed to press forward. Not only was he a journalist on his game, he was also human. He captured that he was not only dealing with four corpses, but he grasped the concept that he was dealing with people who lived lives and touched people, good, bad or otherwise. He promised to bring the story of Wanda Bass to the fore and did so, along with the others, placing himself and many of those he interacted with into peril. However, he was not deterred and continued to press, knowing that exposing the sinister plan was most important to keep himself and others safe.
Carter’s self-awareness and candidness is hilarious and comforting. *****SPOILER ALERT***** >>> One of my favorite scenes is where he smokes marijuana with some would be informants to prove he wasn’t a NARC. In his zeal for his job, he returns to his office, high as a kite when he runs into his executive editor, an elderly man. The exchange is comical to say the least, all the while Carter is writing a story in his head about the demise of his career. Just when he thinks he’s about to be handed his walking papers, the editor lets loose a large guffaw and praises him for his initiative. There are so many different little scenes like this, that I was chuckling quite often. <<< *****END SPOILER*****
The supporting cast was just as vivid and vibrant through Carter’s eyes. From the overly flirtatious, editor Tina Thompson and her very overt overtures to have him contribute his DNA to her motherly endeavors to the very business-like Drug kingpin in the novel that is the source for all of Carter’s woes, each character was constructed as needed to lend them credibility and either make you care for them or despise them. I appreciated that Carter was human. He actually thought about his motives, motives of others and the needs of others, even if it was in a selfish attempt to gain the story. His treatment of Brenda Bass, the mother of the deceased Wanda Bass in the novel, was kind and respectful even if a little unorthodox. Even after he obtained the story, he was human enough to care what happened to her afterwards, just as he was concerned with vagrant sources who may or may not have perished in a bombing that was response to an article he wrote. On the whole, Carter was a likeable character.
So, in short, while I’m not used to this style of crime fiction, I love the take. I like that we are not looking at it from a police standpoint or even a bumbling/unqualified investigator. This gives us insight on how the investigative journalism industry works and what the investigative prowess of a good journalist is. It’s credible and entertaining and I can’t wait to read more about Carter Ross. In fact, the next time I’m in Mr. Parks’ neck of the woods (about 30 miles from where I live), I will have to stop in at his favorite writing venue (Hardees- the only chain restaurant near his home) just to say hello and thank you in person. He has a website that you can send him a message and he actually does read and respond to your queries and comments. Very nice guy!
Esbe read the hardcover version of this book.