When he hears residents of a Newark neighborhood are getting sick—and even dying—from a strange disease, investigative reporter Carter Ross dives into the story—so deep he comes down with the illness himself. With even more motivation to track down the source of the disease, Carter soon hits upon a nearby construction site. But when the project's developer is found dead, and his mob ties surface, Carter knows he's looking at a story much bigger—and with even more dangerous consequences—than an environmental hazard.
Back in the newsroom, Carter has his hands full with his current girlfriend and with the paper's newest eager intern, not to mention his boss and former girlfriend Tina Thompson, who has some news for Carter that's about to make tangling with the mob seem simple by comparison, in The Player by Brad Parks.
Carter Ross looks into the outbreak of a debilitating and sometimes fatal illness within a poor neighborhood of Newark, N.J., in Shamus Award winner Parks's engaging fifth mystery featuring the investigative newspaper journalist (after 2013's The Good Cop). Soon Ross comes down with the same illness and suspects an environmental cause. He discovers that a majority of the workers at a shopping center complex breaking ground nearby have exhibited the same brittle bones and flu-like symptoms as local residents. Then the chief developer of the shopping center, Vaughn McAlister, turns up dead the victim of a baseball bat to the skull. Ross digs into McAlister's background and churns up a noxious slurry of underhanded political and business collusion, mob links, and personal drama. Meanwhile, Ross juggles stunning news from an old lover and his mother's well-meaning meddling in his romantic life. Parks smoothly blends grit and wit, though a muddled climax dulls the final punch.
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Parks is an excellent and very enjoyable writer. He allows the reader to become acquainted with his characters in a way that you would if you hung out with them, and they are interesting people. Fun to get to know. Then he gives them an interesting set of events to deal with. Humor, violence, intrigue and sex are all included. Something for everyone.