The fifth entry in former New York City newsman RG Belsky’s Clare Carlson series includes all the features his fans have come to appreciate—an interesting plot, brisk pacing, and, best of all, the self-deprecating wit and chutzpah of Clare herself.
In this story, Clare’s Manhattan newsroom is abuzz about the murder of Riley Hunt, a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed college co-ed with everything going for her. Just the kind of ratings-bait television news loves to exploit. Clare herself is fully aware of the other tragedies, the other deaths that get shunted to the background in favor of those of “blonde white single female” victims, but ratings are ratings.
Clare began as a newspaper journalist and was probably always a cynical observer of the rush and foibles of New York life. When her newspaper folded, she took a job as news director at a local television station, and she can’t get completely past thinking television news coverage is just a little beneath her. But, hey, a girl’s got to eat.
It all sort of perks along until the station owner throws a spanner in the works. He’s bumping Clare’s long-time boss upstairs to be a consultant, a make-work job if Clare ever heard of one, and hiring a new executive producer. The new gal is known for dramatically increasing station ratings, and she doesn’t care what tricks she has to use to do so. Naturally, Clare loathes her before they’ve even met. Susan makes it clear she’s in charge and won’t put up with Clare’s tendency to go off on her own and make decisions without the approval of Management.
Like Clare, you will be girding yourself for the inevitable confrontations between them. Yet, much as Susan blusters and threatens, she can’t quite rid herself of this annoying staffer, with her Pulitzer Prize and her record of breaking important stories.
The reportage of Riley Hunt’s death is expected to come to an end after a homeless veteran is arrested and charged with the crime. He has Riley’s cell phone, and her blood is on both it and him. We Belsky fans know this tidy conclusion won’t satisfy Clare. She continues to investigate, but the way things are going, she is certain to offend one or more powerful men.
Clare’s doggedness keeps reader interest alive, and a string of new revelations comes quickly. As much as they change the situation, what doesn’t change is Clare’s irreverent humor. She kept me chuckling with her spirited repartee. Belsky has quite deftly developed the voice of Clare, and she may seem like a few people you know—or want to know.
Despite Clare’s terrible track record with her personal relationships, her friend Janet keeps trying to fix her up, and her latest, a Princeton University Spanish professor, seems more than promising.
As a college journalism major myself, I have a soft spot for stories about newsrooms, intrepid reporters, and the tension between the fast pace of new events and the slow and painstaking work of investigation, not to mention the conundrums that face an increasingly embattled profession. I look forward to each new adventure of Clare and her team, and so will you.
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Belsky is simply great. Always a great read.