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Rhode Island journalist Arsenault, like many writers, can't resist stuffing everything he knows into his first novel, at least until the second half, when the pace picks up and the focus tightens. In the fading manufacturing city of Lowell, Mass., Eddie Bourque, a political reporter for the shoddy Lowell Empire, looks into the brutal murder of his newspaper beat partner and rival, Danny Nowlin. Bourque suspects the killing is tied to a story Nowlin was working on under cover, but the newspaper's owners, high up in Lowell's power structure, discourage Bourque from pursuing his investigation. The author brings Lowell with its slums, empty factories and vying political factions vividly alive. He peoples his novel with quirky, memorable characters: Gabrielle and Leo, two sweet, impoverished heroin addicts; Stan Popko, the Empire's computer whiz and comedian wannabe; Gordon Phife, the talented city editor with whom Bourque hits golf balls off of the newspaper building's roof; and police detective Lucy Orr, a robust, dogged investigator. As Bourque probes Nowlin's secrets, he finds a confusing assortment of violent people with conflicting motives out to get him. A fine writer, Arsenault keeps the tension building right up to the surprise ending. One hopes he's kept some good stuff for his next book.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The next city council election in Lowell, Massachusetts, will determine whether the depressed burg provides resources to its poorest residents or gentrifies them out of sight. Eddie Bourque, political reporter for a slightly disreputable afternoon paper, is all over the story--until his partner turns up dead, and editors start slanting his coverage toward the prodevelopment faction. Bourque, a gifted reporter awaiting a shot at the Boston market, ably takes on a web of corruption woven by secretive developers, crooked politicians, and maybe even his own publisher. But when the investigation threatens to expose a Cambodian war criminal, Bourque's head might hit the chopping block before his hands find a keyboard. Arsenault has a fine ear for the rhythms of a low-rent paper. He brings it to life with suitably salty characters and wonderful similes--the editor's "hands were plump and soft, like pudding in rubber gloves." Even though Bourque proves inexplicably willing to give away the biggest story of his career, his tale is mostly a front-page treat. Frank Sennett
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