Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks

Every time I pick up a Brad Parks book, I'm waiting to see what kind of trouble his newspaper reporter, Carter Ross, can get into. This time, he "Wasn't put off by the potential loss of his job, by hits to his reputation, or even the threat of jail." If you like witty characters, the newspaper business, and a reporter who makes just about the worst mistakes he can, you'll enjoy The Girl Next Door.

It started out as a simple obituary. Carter Ross, a veteran reporter at the Newark Eagle-Examiner, read obits for inspiration for stories. He convinced his editor, Tina Thompson, that he wanted to write a story about Nancy Marino. Nancy worked as a waitress, but she was also a delivery person for the newspaper, a union representative. Everyone seemed to like her. "She worked two jobs, kept her mother company..." He called the piece, "Fanfare for the Common Woman." And, that worked, until her sister prodded Carter, saying the hit-and-run accident might have been murder. And, Carter couldn't let go of the story, especially with the link to the newspaper. What if the link to the newspaper was bigger than anyone thought?

Carter enlists the help of a friend on the paper, Tommy Hernandez, and an intern nobody respects, Kevin Lungford. But, even his friends can't save Carter when he goes too far with his investigation, attracting the attention of the publisher. It's going to take dogged determination to keep going when wiser heads warn Ross off the story.

Carter Ross is my kind of character, one who stands up for the underdog, and persists against all odds. And, in The Girl Next Door, he persists in continuing his reckless actions, almost to the point where he's TSTL. TSTL, "Too Stupid To Live" is a complaint readers have when sleuths are reckless with their own safety. Carter is only saved by his final awareness as to how stupid he was. And, it isn't as if he deliberately set out to endanger himself. He actually tried to tell everyone, from his editor to the police, what he thought was happening. But no one would listen.

Brad Parks knows how to create characters. Carter Ross and the staff at the newspaper are brilliantly written. Tommy Hernandez, the gay Cuban-American reporter, is wonderful. Other than Carter Ross, though, Parks' best characters, book after book, are the different newspaper interns. They're all original, and funny.

But, Carter Ross is the heart of these stories. He loves the newspaper business, loves Newark with all its flaws, and, really, just loves people. He's witty and bright, and, sometimes, he's his own worst enemy, as in The Girl Next Door. He's also the first one to admit he isn't perfect, and that makes him lovable.

I'll admit right now that most readers will see the solution to this case long before Carter Ross does. Knowing he's heading in the wrong direction is part of the fun of this book. You won't want to miss the latest installment in Carter Ross' adventures, The Girl Next Door.

(Please come back tomorrow when Brad Parks is my guest blogger. His subject just might surprise you. And, Brad will be appearing for Authors @ The Teague on April 5 at 2 p.m.)

Brad Parks is a winner of the Nero Award and the Shamus Award. His latest book, The Girl Next Door, releases from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books on March 13. For more Brad, sign up for his newsletter, like him on Facebook, or follow @Brad_Parks on Twitter.

The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2012. ISBN 9780312667689 (hardcover), 326p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


jenny milchman said...

Can't wait for this new one by Brad! Thanks for the review--and the reminder, Lesa :)

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Jenny! Enjoy it. And, he's my guest blogger tomorrow. Stop back to read his post, please.

Teena in Toronto said...

I finished it tonight ... it's good!