Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Eyes of the Innocent by Brad Parks

I need to start this review with a disclaimer.  Despite yesterday's beautiful blog posting by Brad Parks, Brad knew I would never promise a positive review of his new book, Eyes of the Innocent.  In fact, he told me to feel free to rip it, because I've never given anyone a good review because they were a friend.  That said, Eyes of the Innocent is released today, and it's even better than his Nero and Shamus award-winning mystery, Faces of the Gone.

Carter Ross is an investigative reporter for New Jersey's largest newspaper, The Newark Eagle-Examiner.  He's survived long enough in a day of newspaper cutbacks to know how to play the game.  So, the mistakes he made on a Monday morning were certain to lead to trouble.  His editor paired him with the newest young intern, called "Sweet Thang" by the staff, and sent them to cover a house fire that killed to little boys.  However, despite Carter's arguments, because the executive editor wanted a story about space heaters, they were sent to cover that angle.  Too bad they didn't end up covering a space heater story.

Instead, Carter. one of the last remaining WASPs in Newark, and a wealthy twenty-two-year-old girl end up at the end of a knife in a burnt-out house.  From there, it only gets worse.  Lauren (Sweet Thang) has a gift with witnesses, and before long Akilah Harris,  the mother of the two dead childen, has told her sob story of an orphaned life, working two jobs, trying to pay a mortgage.  That story is set for the front page, until it starts to unravel.  There are missing mortgage records, and Akilah's story has a few other missing pieces.  When a city councilman with links to Akilah goes missing, it seems there's much more to the story.  Carter knows it could be a heck of a story, with a missing councilman, missing mortage papers, urban house-flipping and political corruption.  "Reporters love cover-ups only slightly less than they love their mothers - more if their mother doesn't cook well."  In the long run, though, it's Carter's editor who points out what the story is really about, the two dead little boys and all the people who failed them.  The pictures of those little boys in the newspaper showed "The eyes of the innocent."

Brad Parks, through Carter Ross, unravels a complex, tragic story of corruption, greed and murder.  At the same time, the book is filled with the humor that gets an investigative reporter through the smut and sordid details that are part of the job.  In the very beginning Carter admits he made four mistakes on Monday, and tries to get out of writing the space heater story.  "Can't we just reprint one of the old space heater stories?...I seem to recall from the archives the nineteen eighty-eight space heater story was a classic - fruity yet full-bodied, with hints of singed circuit breaker."  There are funny comments throughout the book.  But, the best humor comes from Parks' wonderful characters themselves.  Poor Carter Ross, trapped between a man-hungry city editor and a sexy "Sweet Thang" while the gay Cuban intern makes fun of Carter for his WASPish clothes and his woman problems.  I just have a feeling Parks knew, and now Carter Ross knows, people like the pawnshop and restaurant owners, and the councilman's aide.  All of these characters bring a realistic feeling to Eyes of the Innocent.

Investigative reporters have the perfect job for uncovering crime.  Carter Ross, and his friends and acquaintances, have a world of crime ahead of them.  It's time for readers to discover Newark, New Jersey through Carter Ross' eyes, and with his sense of humor.  Once you've seen his world, it will be the last time you can view newspapers, city government, or Newark through the Eyes of the Innocent.

For more Brad, visit his website (http://www.bradparksbooks.com/), follow him on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/brad_parks) or became a fan of Brad Parks Books on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Brad-Parks-Books/137190195628?ref=ts).

Eyes of the Innocent by Brad Parks. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2011. ISBN 9780312574789 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me copies of the book, in hopes I would review it.


Kay said...

I love the sound of this book. I need to read the first one and I have it, just need to read it. Sigh.

Lovely review, Lesa!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Kay. Yes, you do NEED to read the first one! You won't regret it.

Cindy D said...

What happened to Hot titles/Treasures in my Closet?

Lesa said...

It's coming, Cindy, it's coming! Tomorrow is Treasures in My Closet, and Friday is Hot Titles. I just had a few other items I had to get to first this month. Keep watching!

jenny milchman said...

I am very excited to get to know Brad's work, which I just learned about recently. Thanks for the review, Lesa.

Lesa said...

Oh, I hope you enjoy it, Jenny. I really like his writing. My pleasure!

Teena in Toronto said...

I finished it last night ... it's good!