21 January 2010

Book Banter -- Faces of the Gone

Title: Faces of the Gone
Author: Brad Parks
Length: 330 pages
Genre: mystery
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Plot Basics: Carter Ross, investigative reporter for the Newark Eagle-Examiner, lives for untangling good stories. When four bodies turn up murder in a vacant lot, and the police spoon out a feeble story for how the four are connected, Carter starts doing what he does best -- asking questions to put together a real scoop. With the help of his sexy city editor, gay Cuban intern, a bum, a stripper, and some shoe leather, Carter uncovers the links between the four victims, and puts him in the sights of ruthless killer.

Banter Points: Word Nerd met Brad Parks at Bouchercon, interviewed him a few weeks back and had to wait (more or less patiently) on the library to get a copy in her hands. And the wait paid off.

Word Nerd approaches books with reporters as the main characters with some hesitation, but given that Parks is a recovering reporter too, she hoped his novel would ring true, and it did. The whole process of how editors want stories and how reporting gets handed around on a big case, and the demise of the newspaper industry and how to work sources and all of it -- right, right, right. In fact, reading the book made her miss the old adrenaline rush of a big scoop, the hum of the newsroom... not enough to go back, but enough to remember why she used to love that career.

For non-ex-journalists, the book is still a great read. Carter is the kind of protagonist people relate to and supported by a comic set of secondary characters, it's hard not to like the guy. The plot moves at a good clip, and keeps the reader guessing up to the end about who's really behind everything. Carter's also great a dry sense of humor -- his journalistic cynicism, no doubt -- that makes for some great one-line zingers throughout the story (one in particular about the worthlessness of TV reporters had Word Nerd laughing aloud.)

Bummer Points: A few times, even for those who still love newspapers, Carter's waxing on about the industry, it's demise (or not) or why journalism is so important feels a little self-indulgent on Parks' part.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Read it. Three weeks and six books in to 2010, Faces of the Gone is the best thing Word Nerd's read so far this year and will likely hold up as the year progresses. Word Nerd's glad Parks is busy writing more Carter Ross books because this is one veteran reporter Word Nerd hopes doesn't bail from the industry.

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