Saturday, March 24, 2012
The Girl Next Door
New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2012
336 pages Fiction
Sometimes, a reader just has to take a break and read something fun! My break from heavier reading was The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks, which is the third book by Parks about Newark Eagle-Examiner reporter, Carter Ross. I began this book not knowing about the other two in the series, Faces of the Gone and Eyes of the Innocent, so I don’t believe that it is necessary to begin this mystery series with the first book.
Carter Ross, investigative reporter, is one of the victims of the crisis in the newspaper industry. Like most reporters, his job is in jeopardy, and he is in real danger that the suspension he is under will become permanent. The real victim, however, is a newspaper delivery woman who is killed in a hit-and-run while she is delivering papers. Nancy, the victim, is also a union rep, and the newspaper is engaged in a bitter battle over the pay scale for their delivery people and other unionized employees. Carter stumbles into the story, just like he stumbles through life. He says of himself, “I was the kind of reporter who usually stayed at least ten highway exits away from prudent.”
The mystery, itself, is a bit contrived. I had the murderer figured out very early in the book. But frankly, the mystery is only part of the fun. Carter is a charming and appealing character and his musings on life, death, Newark, and pizza are fun and insightful. One reviewer called Parks "the literary love child of (Janet) Evanovich and (Harlan) Coben."
There are spots that are just laugh out loud funny. The scenes between Carter and Lunky, the college intern are marvelous. Lunky is clueless and tends to create literary criticism instead of news articles. But he is able to come to the rescue when necessary and it is he who saves the day when Carter screws things up for almost the last time. The give and take between Carter and Lunky about Philip Roth are priceless and also serve as important clues.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl Next Door which I received as an ebook from the publisher. I do have to say a couple of words about reading a mystery in ebook format. I have always enjoyed reading the end of a mystery first to find out "who-dun-it." I really enjoy knowing the villain because I like to see the techniques the author uses to develop the plot. I didn't have to do that in The Girl Next Door because it was fairly obvious from the beginning. However, because the book was on my Kindle, I couldn't figure out quite how to read the end of the book first. So, as long as I am reading mysteries on my Kindle, I guess that I will have to deduce the crime like a purist.
Here is a review in the Newark Star Ledger, Brad Parks old newspaper: http://www.nj.com/entertainment/arts/index.ssf/2012/03/the_girl_next_door_a_book_revi.html
Brad Parks website: http://www.bradparksbooks.com/