Carter Ross, the sometimes-dashing investigative reporter for the Newark Eagle-Examiner, is back, and reporting on the latest tragedy to befall Newark, New Jersey: a fast-moving house fire that kills two boys. With the help of the papers newest intern, a bubbly blonde known as Sweet Thang, Carter finds the victim's mother, Akilah Harris, who spins a tale of woe about a mortgage rate reset that forced her to work two jobs and leave her young boys without child care.
Carter turns in a front-page feature, but soon discovers Akilah isnt what she seems. And neither is the fire. When Newark councilman Windy Byers is reported missing, it launches Carter into the sordid world of urban house-flipping and Jersey-style political corruption.
With his usual mix of humor, compassion, and street smarts, Carter is soon calling on some of his friends - gay Cuban sidekick Tommy Hernandez, T-shirt-selling buddy Tee Jamison, and on-and-off girlfriend Tina Thompson - for help in tracking down the shadowy figure behind it all.
Brad Parks' debut, Faces of the Gone, won the Shamus Award and Nero Award for Best American Mystery. It was heralded as an engaging mix of Harlan Coben and Janet Evanovich. Now Parks solidifies his place as one of the brightest new talents in crime fiction with this authentic, entertaining thriller.
Investigative journalist Carter Ross is always in search of a story that isn’t BBI (boring but important), and the death of two young brothers in a suspicious house fire in Newark, NJ turns out to be anything but boring. Single-mother Akilah Harris’ anguish over the loss of her boys is genuine, but everything else about her story quickly unravels as Ross and his intrepid team of colleagues at the Eagle-Examiner discover that the fire is connected to the sensational disappearance and murder of city councilman Wendell “Windy” Byers, Jr. Brad Parks, a former Washington Post reporter, uses the recent economic downturn, mortgage scams, and decline of print journalism as a backdrop to this modern mystery.
Narrator Macleod Andrews is the Rich Little of voices, and with a large cast of characters and rapid-fire dialogue to interpret, his vocal skills get a full workout. Andrews’ reading of Carter Ross is both conversational and a tad condescending, which perfectly fits the veteran, street-smart reporter. But where Andrews really flies is interpreting the secondary characters, including the newspaper’s gruff, vowel-challenged editor, the various urban dialects of the African-American characters, and gay intern Tommy Hernandez, who, at first, sounds a little too much like Hank Azaria’s Agodar in The Birdcage before Andrews reins him in to create a savvy character who adds levity to the twisty, violent story.
Andrews also impressively excels with the various female characters, especially Ross’ sidekick, Lauren “Sweet Thang” McMillan. The way Andrews raises his voice an octave to deliver Sweet Thang’s spacey monologues is worth the price of admission alone. While Sweet Thang might come across as an airhead, her ability to interact and empathize with everyone from thugs to grieving widows helps find the clues linking Akilah to Windy Byers, proving there’s a true reporter behind the non-sequiturs. Andrews’ singular voice contains multitudes and his take on Parks’ entertaining thriller will have you intrigued, laughing, and on the edge of your seat to the very end. Collin Kelley
"This book held me hostage until the last page." (Michael Connelly)
"Carter Ross is not only a first-rate investigative reporter; he’s also a first-rate comic. It’s a rare mystery that provides a good laugh on almost every page. One can only hope that Brad Parks has more mysteries for Carter Ross to solve in future books." (The Star-Ledger, Newark)
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Great Story, Sweet Thang made it a treat.
Strangely the historic aspect about Newark I didn't know about, some of his side descriptions sent me on a research marathon.
Sweet Thang being so naive about Akilah.
Macleod Andrew's owns this character.
Carter Ross, Crime Solver.
Im hooked on the Carter Ross series!!