The Player (Carter Ross Mystery #5) by Brad Parks (Minotaur hardcover, 4 March 2014).
Reviewed by Marlyn Beebe.
Investigative reporter Carter Ross receives a phone call from a young woman named Jackie Orr, who tells him that her grandmother recently died from an illness that appears to be affecting her whole neighborhood. Carter snags one of the Eagle-Examiner's interns -- in this case Ivy League-educated Neesha Krishnamurthy, affectionately known to her colleagues as "Pigeon" -- and heads over to talk to Jackie, who promised to gather a group of the aforementioned neighbors to talk to them.
The illness resembles a flu, characterized by coughing and respiratory issues, coming and going often, and unpredictably. On top of that, though, several of the people had broken bones, again for no particular reason. It's obvious that something in the local atmosphere is causing this, but impossible to determine exactly what that something is. The residents are all certain, though, that it has something to do with a nearby construction project.
As usual, Carter's investigation doesn't go smoothly. Both he and Pigeon wake up the next morning with the mysterious symptoms described by the residents of Ridgewood Avenue. And when the developer for the construction site is found dead, Carter becomes more convinced that something is going on.
Meanwhile, Carter's personal life is a mess. The combustible attraction between him and his editor Tina Thompson effectively combusted when he refused to be her sperm donor.
He's sorta-kinda dating Kira O'Brien, one of the newspaper's librarians, who is prim and proper at work, but pierced and punked-out after hours. Since Carter's idea of rule-breaking is to wear something other than a blue or white button-down shirt with his pleated khakis, he's pretty sure she'll tire of him soon.
Carter is an easy character to empathize with, which is emphasized through Parks' use of a first-person narrative. Though Carter tries hard to project the air of a tough, hard-as-nails journalist, the softer side of his nature peeks through often. He's conscientious about researching stories, and concerned about the well-being of his sources, as well as his friends and family. But he does have the knack of being in the wrong place at the worst time, which can have results that range from hilarious to dangerous.
Further adventures of Carter Ross, in the form of a sixth book in the series, are due to be published in 2015.
Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus, the Nero, and the Lefty Award. An enthusiastic public speaker, Brad will serve as
Toastmaster at Left Coast Crime 2014 in Monterey later this month.
He has also been known to
burst into song at bookstores, libraries, book conferences, and other
places where no one was thoughtful enough to muzzle him. When not
writing, he is a washed up jock, a closeted community theater nerd, a
father to two and a husband to one. He lives in the tidewater part of
Virginia, where he is currently working on the next Carter Ross mystery.
FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the e-galley.