Harlan Coben is quoted on the front of Faces of the Gone saying, "Terrific Debut." Actually, Brad Parks' debut crime novel is so terrific that it's one of the best mysteries I've read this year. Faces of the Gone introduces a fresh, attractive protagonist, and a fascinating story.
When four bodies are found shot execution style in an empty lot in Newark, New Jersey, it's a little much even for the cynical media. The story attracts attention from all over, but the police quickly connect the murders to a robbery at a local bar. And, the Newark Eagle-Examiner leads with that story. But, something just doesn't feel right to investigative reporter Carter Ross.
Ross admits he's as WASP as it comes, but he's learned to work the streets of Newark. And, his sources indicate that those four dead people, ranging from a dealer to a dancer who was hustling to feed her kids, had one thing in common. And, it wasn't the robbery of a local bar. But, Ross' new headlines put him dead center in a target for the man behind the murders, a man called "The Director." And, once Carter is faced with losing everything, he's determined to find answers.
Carter Ross is a wonderful addition to the ranks of investigative reporters in crime novels. He's a reporter with a heart, one who has learned to "approach people with respect, listen hard, and genuinely try to understand their point of view." As he talks to family members of the dead, he truly begins to see the "Faces of the Gone." But, at the same time he's skilled at his job, he's hopeless in personal relationships. That leads to some of the funniest scenes in the book - his fear of the female city editor, on the prowl for a sperm donor, his relationship with the gay intern, Tommy, his inability to make an intelligent comment when dealing with the executive editor. Ross is a hero, despite himself. And, the world of the Newark Eagle-Examiner is an excellent background for a crime novel, with Ross the perfect amateur sleuth with investigative skills.
Brad Parks was a reporter with The Washington Post and The Star-Ledger. He brings the newsroom to life with humor and love. Some of the enjoyable scenes arise from the rivalry between print and TV media, and the disdain they exhibit for each other.
Faces of the Gone is more than a successful debut. It marks the debut of a new hero, a compassionate investigative reporter in a book marked by humor that doesn't detract from the tragedy of the story. Faces of the Gone, and Brad Parks, are destined for success.
Brad Parks' website is www.bradparksbooks.com
Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312574772 (hardcover), 336p.
FTC Full Disclosure - Received a review copy from the publisher, in hopes I would review it.