Spiked Paperback – Large Print, Sep 15 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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detective who always shows up when Eddie wishes she wouldn't. I found the story a little slow in the begining but towards the second half it really picked up the pace and I found myself liking Eddie Bourque and waiting with baited breath for the solution to this involved mystery. Mark Arsenault really knows his stuff about the inside world of the newspaper business and
local politics and conveys this with great writing, interesting characters and a great story. And wait until you meet General VonKatz...he's quite the character!
The protagonist, Eddie Bourque, is a small time newspaper reporter with ambitions of breaking into the big time. Ambition is often self-defeating, and Eddie is also limited by a terrifying childhood experience. Fear and ambition are in his case related, and something he must recognize in order to navigate the cesspool of corruption into which his investigation of the death of a fellow reporter leads him. After many twists and turns, his search ends in the discovery of dead body that has been concealed in plain sight for many years. To find out how that could happen you'll have to read the book.
The milieu and atmosphere is pitch perfect. From the roof of the newspaper building, where Eddie and his editor meet at night to swig beer and drive golf balls, to the basement where a disabled war veteran keeps the archives, the world of the newspaper business comes vividly to life and makes for fun and fascinating reading. Also memorable is a drug addicted couple who live under a bridge and help Eddie along the way. The lively characters are quirky and amusing, and very realistic. The action scenes, however, are sometimes unrealistic, but they pass quickly and to my mind are not where the real story is anyway.
There’s some fascinating thematic material that begs for further exploration and development. I wonder, for instance, if the dead body is not in some way Eddie himself, if his investigation might in some way be a search to discover and eventually to free himself from his own limitations.
Whatever, there’s something about the voice and storytelling that is very engaging. It’s probably just that Mr. Arsenault knows and cares about his characters, particularly those who live on the fringes of society; brings them to life and makes you care about them too.