The Girl Next Door Review
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Back before the digital age, the intrepid reporter was a mystery novel staple, pounding the pavement to uncover the truth. Now, the news environment has changed drastically—and, as a result, so have those mystery novels. But, every once in a while, you’ll still find a novel about an old-school, pavement-pounding reporter—like Carter Ross, the unwavering hero of author Brad Parks’s The Girl Next Door.

The story begins as the Newark Eagle-Examiner’s investigative reporter finds himself searching the paper’s obituaries for a lead. What he finds is Nancy Marino, one of the paper’s loyal delivery people, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident.

Seeing Nancy’s death as an opportunity to write a few nice things about one of the paper’s own, Ross travels to the funeral home in search of a few quotes about her hard work and dedication. What he finds, however, is suspicion. Nancy’s sister isn’t convinced that her death was an accident. And as Ross begins digging into Nancy’s dealings with the union—and their ongoing battles with the paper’s publisher, Gary Jackman—he’s no longer convinced, either.

  
 
With The Girl Next Door, Parks paints an interesting—and brutally honest—picture of modern-day journalism. Gone are the crack reporters and bustling newsrooms of days gone by. In their place: gossip bloggers and a whole lot of empty desks. It’s a pretty grim picture, yet it makes for a fascinating story about desperate men and their battle to stay on top.

Meanwhile, as print publications like the Eagle-Examiner struggle to stay afloat, Carter Ross is a welcome throw-back from the good old days of journalism: the clean-cut, tie-sporting, notebook-toting reporter who’s still devoted to digging for the truth. Though he’s sent out on assignments that involve bears wandering through the city, he’d rather defy authority and go in search of his next big scoop.

Ross narrates the story with wry wit and a casual tone, as if he’s recalling the whole thing over a beer after work. And he’s surrounded by a likable band of mildly eccentric characters—characters who add personality and humor to the story without going too far over-the-top.

The case itself, however, leaves something to be desired. Though the set-up is smart and timely, the solution is all too clear. While I like mysteries that make sense in the end—the kind that readers can actually solve, if they put their mind to it—this one is painfully obvious. All of the signs point in the same direction—and it’s often frustrating that a brilliant investigative reporter like Ross keeps overlooking the not-so-subtle clues.

Still, despite the all-too-apparent solution, The Girl Next Door is an entertaining read, with a likable hero and a quirky supporting cast. The industry may be dying around them, but their adventures are as lively as ever. So if you long for the good old days of crime-sniffing reporters, you’ll want to meet Carter Ross.


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