In a stately West Village town house, a wealthy socialite and her secretary are murdered. In the 24 hours that follow, a flurry of activity surrounds their shocking deaths:
The head of one of the city's last tabloids stops the presses. A cop investigates the killing. A reporter chases the story. A disgraced hedge fund manager flees the country. An Iraq War vet seeks revenge. And an angry young extremist plots a major catastrophe.
The City is many things: a proving ground, a decadent carnival, or a palimpsest of memories -- a historic metropolis eclipsed by modern times. As much a thriller as it is a gripping portrait of the city of today, Tabloid City is a new fiction classic from the writer who has captured New York perfectly for decades.
Hamill (North River) forays into Dominic Dunne society crime territory before veering uncomfortably into a far-fetched terrorist plot. Just as the last ever edition of the New York World is getting put to bed, veteran editor Sam Briscoe stops the presses for a sensational murder: socialite Cynthia Harding and her personal secretary are found stabbed to death in Harding's Manhattan town house. The story unfolds in time-stamped, you-are-there bursts that follow a large cast, including several journalists; Cynthia's adopted daughter; a disgraced Madoff-like financier; a media blogger; the murdered secretary's husband, a police officer assigned to a counterterrorism task force, as well as their son, a convert to radical Islam; and best of all by the weary and worldly Briscoe himself. Hamill is at his best in the Briscoe portions, rich in print anecdotes and mournful for a passing age, but as both the initial murders and the closing of the paper play into a larger plot and the young extremist becomes the driving force of the novel, the quality slides precipitously, and, as if sensing defeat, the book is brought to a too abrupt conclusion with most of the principals gathered for a group of scenes that strain credulity. Hamill nails the dying newsroom, but gets lost on the terrorism beat.