When journalists turn to crime . . .

scarecrow book coverThe other day a journalism student came to the Library wanting to try a novel by Edna Buchanan, one of her favorite reporters, and we began talking about why some of our favorite mystery/thriller writers (e.g., Connelly and Buchanan, among others) earned their chops on the crime beat or as investigative journalists.  Of course there’s the fact that a crime journalist has experience in the trenches talking to cops, investigators and witnesses. But it’s more than that: It’s about story and pacing.

Journalists, who spend their professional lives writing within spaces measured by column inches, manage to mix an economy of words with just the right amount of detail for my reading taste. They know how to write a lead that draws you in, and they’re masters at keeping the story going. Best of all, for me, is when a journalist, armed with a pen and an inquisitive mind, takes the lead role in solving the mystery. Consider these titles — by journalists and with journalists in starring roles: 

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
L.A. Times crime reporter Jack McEvoy gets a two-week layoff notice and decides to go out with a bang, putting his all into investigating a murder and the 16-year-old suspect currently in custody. Connelly, a former L.A. Times crime reporter, is my favorite thriller/mystery/crime writer, and you can’t go wrong with any of his books in the Harry Bosch series or his stand-alone books, such as The Lincoln Lawyer. And you can get a taste of his nonfiction crime writing in Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers, which includes stories that inspired a few of his novels.

Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman
Former reporter Tess Monaghan turns private detective in this excellent series set in Baltimore. Lippman was a crime reporter for The Baltimore Sun and was also a writer for The Wire (HBO series). Try any in the Tess Monaghan mystery series, as well as her excellent stand-alone novels.

starvation lake book coverStarvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
Detroit Times reporter Gus Carpenter returns to work at his hometown newspaper in Starvation Lake, Michigan, and to investigate the murder of a popular hockey coach. Gruley is the Chicago bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal.

Love Kills by Edna Buchanan
Buchanan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning crime reporter for the Miami Herald, brings her two solid series (Britt Montero and Cold Case Squad) together in this mystery. Montero is a crime reporter for the fictional Miami News tracking a serial killer from Florida to Alaska.

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter: 
Vince Camden relocates to Spokane (as part of the witness protection program) and gets a job at a donut shop, but can’t quite escape notice of mobsters. Darkly comedic crime story set against the backdrop of the 1980 presidential election. Walter was an investigative reporter for The Spokesman-Review who first got wide-spread notice in the book world for his nonfiction account of Ruby Ridge: Every Knee Shall Bow: The Truth and Tragedy of Ruby Ridge and the Randy Weaver Family.

Trying to get back a stolen life

Editor’s note: Susan Hildreth, our City Librarian, will be checking in with us from time to time to let us know what she’s been reading.

I just finished reading The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano. This is the story of Melody Grace McCartney who has been in the Federal Witness Protection Program for most of her life. At age six, she and her parents girl-she-used-to-be-book-coverwitnessed a brutal act of violence that changed their lives forever. The federal government lured them into the Witness Protection Program with the promise of safety, but the program took Melody’s name, her home, her family and, ultimately, her innocence. The story begins when Melody, now at age 26, is still on the run and yearns to live a life as her true self.

When the feds spirit her off to begin yet another new life in another new town, she’s stunned by a man who accosts her and calls her by her real name. Jonathan Bovaro, the mafioso sent to find her, knows all about the real Melody; and she can Continue reading “Trying to get back a stolen life”

Staying Safe in Seattle

seattlestreetSeattle is a very friendly place to live. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the country and, just over a year ago, Mayor Nickels and Chief Kerloikowske (who has since been tapped to be the new national drug czar) announced that crime had hit a 40 year low. But Seattle is still a city none-the-less and it always pays to be on your guard. It’s really easy to fall victim to a scammer or a thief if you’re not deliberately mindful of where you are and who you’re with at all times.
A friend of mine was reminded of this the other day when she ran into a genuine pickpocket on her way home. She was in line to board a bus when the man in front of her paused and began to ask a confusing series of questions about how to get where he was going. While my friend was busy dealing with this distraction, the man’s accomplice took advantage of the close quarters to steal her wallet. The thief was nimble-my friend didn’t feel a thing-but he wasn’t slick enough to escape the view of Continue reading “Staying Safe in Seattle”