June 28, 2011 · 11:06 am
Eyes of the Innocent: A Mystery by Brad Parks (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 294 pages)
“I’m not saying it’s simple to find and tell the truth. It takes a great deal of hard work, intellectual honesty, open-mindedness, and a willingness to keep listening to people even when your gut is telling you they’re full of it.”
This second appearance of Carter Ross, an investigative journalist in Newark, New Jersey, is a morality tale with a mystery added for good measure. The worst case fallout from the great housing debacle of the recent past is the theme of this book. Carter and his protegé, a blonde intern nick-named “Sweet Thang,” set out to fulfill the big boss’s demand for a space heater story to be run in the Newark Eagle-Examiner. As the reader can easily imagine, this assignment becomes a much greater story filled with heinous crimes and enough anxiety to satisfy the most demanding mystery/thriller reader.
“Editors are 98% full of stupid ideas.”
Author Park’s news background is put to good use as he sets out a primer on choosing journalism as a career. He employs Carter’s first-person narrative to poke fun at the others and produce some excellent character development. There’s also a third-person narrative set off by the use of italics that weaves in the most sinister element of the story. This other thread serves to highlight Carter’s honesty and commitment to his profession via a stark contrast.
Although the tale is told from a male’s perspective, it is surprising how chatty Carter can be when he considers his feelings, likes and dislikes. There is a bit of smugness on his part but given the golden professional reputation Park ascribes to Carter, it appears to be well-earned.
There is a strong similarity to the mysteries, Dog Tags and Flipping Out by the writing team of Lomax and Biggs. Indeed, these books and Eyes of the Innocent are very much like going on a police ride-along.
A review copy was received from the publisher. “This book held me hostage until the last page.” Michael Connelly
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Tagged as A Mystery, audiobook, book review, Brad Parks, Burning Down the House, Carter Ross, character development, Dog Tags, editors, Eyes of the Innocent, Faces of the Gone, fiction, first person narrative, Flipping Out, Hard Work, hardbound book, investigative journalism, Joseph's Reviews, Kindle Edition, Lomax and Biggs, male perspective, Michael Connelly, New Jersey, Newark, Newark Eagle-Examiner, newspaper reporters, Nook Book, recommended books, Ruta Arellano, Shamus Award Winning Author, space heater, Talking Heads
January 13, 2011 · 4:00 pm
Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding by Jessie Sholl (Gallery Books; $15.00; 318 pages)
“In the center of the cement floor sits a four-foot high pyramid of mildewy sweaters, looking like a bonfire ready to be lit, and that’s exactly what I’d like to do, because life would be so much easier if I could just burn this whole house down.”
There is a big difference between watching an hour-long TV show about compulsive hoarding and living with a close relative whose behavior has literally squeezed you out. Author Jessie Sholl is an essayist who has written a touching and engaging memoir about her relationship with her mother, a compulsive hoarder. Her childhood memories and playground embarrassments are all too real and pitiful. No, this is not a sob story or a revenge piece. It is Sholl’s declaration of acceptance of reality and acknowledgment of a fact that she has been stuffing away into dark places in her soul for way too long.
Sholl’s tale is calmly set forth in a measured voice. There are no wild moments of over-the-top drama as are shown on A&E’s Hoarders show or The Style Network’s Clean House. Nor is there a miracle cure after the trash haulers roll away from the house. Rather, the ongoing, really relentless nature of her mother’s disease forms the backdrop for the disintegration of a family.
This reviewer thinks kudos are due to Sholl for her willingness to travel from New York to Minneapolis at a time when her mom is diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is daunting enough without the prospect of caring for someone in a house overrun with hoarded stuff. Between the long-term hoarding and the newly diagnosed cancer, there are more than enough challenges to be dealt with in a relatively short stay. Sholl seems to be a very gracious person. Her father and stepmother are portrayed as the saving grace in this scenario.
The background material, bibliography and discussion points round out an excellent presentation of hoarding. If someone in your life has this condition, Dirty Secret is a highly recommended read. It is a balanced blend of reality and compassion.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A review copy was received from the publisher.
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Tagged as A&E, bibliography, book review, Burning Down the House, cancer, Clean House, compassion, compulsions, compulsive hoarding, Dirty Laundry, Don Henley, essayist, family, Gallery Books, graciousness, hoarders, hoarding, Jessie Sholl, Kindle Edition, memoir, mental disease, Minneapolis, mother and daughter, New York, nonfiction, personal challenges, physical disease, psychology, reality, recommended books, Ruta Arellano, secrets, Simon and Schuster, The Style Network, trade paperback, Travelers' Tales Prague, TV shows, well balanced account