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Earlier this month, I took Brad Parks on a plane with me. Well, not the guy, per se, but his brain-spawn: the imaginary, crime-fighting newspaper reporter Carter Ross.

I’ve been meaning to do this review for a couple of weeks now. Part of the delay was in figuring out which category to stick it in. I mean, technically, the main character is the opposite gender, but that seems too easy. A perhaps too-big percentage of things I read feature a male protagonist. Award-winning toga wearer wasn’t a category. Thus, I’m going with new-to-you series.

I’m not very good at reviews. I like something and it’s generally a good bet most other people don’t. Since the book won multiple awards, I don’t have to convince anyone from scratch that it’s worth a read. Other people who may not eat tofu scramble have already done that for me.

Obligatory summary: The book starts with four dead bodies, which is apparently two-or-three too many to be just another day at the office for investigative reporter Carter Ross. While poking around trying to find a story that’s more interesting than the glossy soundbytes the on-camera types reported, he gets a crash course in low-income economics, heroin, and hangover cures.

Personally, I thought it was a good book, and one that was quite funny in places. The relationship between Carter and the hot-for-his-sperm city editor was great comic relief, but the interactions between Carter and many of the people he met on the streets also amused me. Maybe this is because I spend too much time in the ‘hood, myself. Maybe it’s because I spend too much time with people from the ‘hood (by which I mean several disenfranchised, low-poverty areas of the city), and I know too many people who are either from the ‘hood, live in the ‘hood, or spend time doing social work in the ‘hood. The part with the bootleggers and the pot made me giggle like I was high (and I was on an airplane at the time). Luckily, the plane was owned by Southwest, so I wasn’t the only person in a good mood, so air Marshalls didn’t feel compelled to jump me.

I discovered last week, though, that telling someone a book called Faces of the Gone and found on a shelf between stuff like Murder Death Massacre Trial and Deadly Cupcakes Slaughter All causes said person to stare at you like you’re a deranged Cupcake Serial Killer.

The book’s also well-plotted, well-paced, and will encourage you to avoid heroin. It’ll also make you glad the next one, Eyes of the Innocent is now available.

Since I tend to accidentally pair books, this one got followed up by three Steinbecks (Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, and Tortilla Flat) about vastly different characters who all struggled in that separate place we have in American society for those without much – or any – income. To round out the theme, I finished reading Sudhir Venkatesh’s account of his years spent shadowing the residents of Robert Taylor homes in Chicago as well as several members of the Black Kings gang (Gang Leader for a Day: A Rouge Sociologist Takes to the Streets).

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