Another day, another box of tissue and then some gone. The battle continues and so does the reading. Back to the world of mystery fiction, sub-genre: cozy, we go.
A Confidential Source
By Jan Brogan
ISBN # 0-89296-007-8
For reporter Hallie Ahern the road to redemption has taken her to Rhode Island and the Providence Morning Chronicle. She works out of a county bureau office in South Kingston and spends her days covering school boa4rd meetings, retyping press release and police reports, and other lightweight but needed articles. She still dreams of the big story but the big story blew up in her face once before and she constantly worries it could happen again.
Dreams are what got her into trouble in the first place. Dreams that caused insomnia so severe that she became addicted to sleeping pills. And addiction she still fights and is very careful not to give into again. That battle quickly becomes harder when the owner of The Mazursky Market, Barry Mazursky, is gunned down while she is in the small convenience store. While she did not see the shooter put the bullet into Mazurky’s brain, she knows exactly who did it. Moments before a large man in a parka had cursed her when she saw his face and there is no doubt he killed Mazursky.
While she cared deeply about Mazursky and felt him to be a friend as she wrote in the paper for a lead story, the facts are that she really knew very little about him. After praising him extensively in print, it slowly becomes clear that Mazursky hid dark secrets. Assigned to continue to work the case by the editorial staff of the paper, she begins to discover pieces of information while asking why the police are stonewalling the case. Links to political corruption and a coming referendum of gambling appear and it seems many of the characters are using Hallie for their own ends. As she investigates, Hallie figures out this wasn’t a simple robbery gone wrong, but a public execution designed to send a statement to certain individuals. She realizes this could her chance to break back into the big leagues and claim total redemption for her past sins. That is, if she doesn’t miss the warning signs and get herself killed.
Rich in detail and with somewhat stock characters, this novel works forward very slowly as Hallie pulls the pieces together. As in many cozy style novels, the pace is slow and the mystery is an ongoing theme but often not primary. Such is the case here, as Hallie deals with possible romantic entanglements with a handsome District Attorney among others, her own addictive personality, relationship issues, both professional and personal, and her ongoing debate with herself over her own past failures and triumphs. Hallie is a complex persona who seems to shift back and forth, waffling between the responsibilities of adulthood and a wishing for simpler things. With the focus so scattered across so many themes, the first two hundred pages of this novel read like an elaborate setup piece.
But the final seventy-five to one hundred pages make the wait worth it as the novel begins to go. As the pressures rapidly mount, Hallie spends less wasted time with doubt and self-recriminations and becomes real to the reader as she reacts to the considerable forces allied against her.
Those familiar with the background political history at the state and local level in Rhode Island will appreciate this novel more than others. No doubt heavily based on real life people at high levels of State and local government, this cozy encourages speculation as to who the fictional characters are based on. That fact as well as the rich details in setting work well and make this novel come alive for the reader.
All in all, this is an enjoyable read that follows her first novel, “Final Copy.” This novel is not a sequel and easily works well as a stand-alone or as a possible series start. That of course, is up to the author, but I hope that she will bring back Hallie for another adventure soon.
A big thank you to Renee Supriano of the Time Warner Book Group for providing a review copy. It is appreciated!
More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note here or at Kevin_tipple@att.net with your comments, observations, and suggestions.
Thanks for reading!
Kevin R. Tipple © 2005
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