The Girl Next Door

In a business where what bleeds leads, reporter Carter Ross finds uplift in the memorial section--until one day he stumbles upon murder. When an Eagle-Examiner newspaper delivery woman meets an early death in a hit-and-run accident on her route one morning, Carter wants nothing more than to honor her memory as a likable, hardworking girl next door. But beneath the surface of Nancy Marino's seemingly simple life, he uncovers a mare's nest of family tensions, sexual harassment and hardball union politics--with all the evidence pointing toward his boss.

The Girl Next Door is the third installment of Brad Parks's Carter Ross series, which began with the Nero- and Shamus-winning Faces of the Gone. The popularity of the series is in no small part thanks to its self-effacing hero, Carter, a self-described prep school WASP. But he's got guts, and under the oxford/khakis combo, he's 100% Jersey.

With its Newark backdrop and broad humor, many reviewers have compared Parks's work to the Stephanie Plum bestsellers. Like Janet Evanovich, Parks captures the New Jersey sense of place in careworn but cozy blue-collar neighborhoods with postage-stamp yards serenaded by the "white noise machine" of the parkway. Carter and Stephanie share the common traits of courage verging on foolhardiness, language bordering on foul and, of course, a morbid appreciation for all thing funereal.

Through his portrayal of newsroom culture and the ailing (if once-mighty) independent paper, Parks ascends the more pulpy shallows of the genre. The Girl Next Door is perfect for the reader who loves an LOL moment but wants a mystery that's more than empty calories. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

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