Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Little Trouble With the Facts (trade, $13.95), by Nina Siegal

Siegal’s descriptions of the world of graffiti writing and behind-the-scenes of the obits department of “The Paper” (an unstated The New York Times) are worthy of mentioning. What in the world would one have to do with the other, you ask?

Valerie Vane, girl reporter and gossip queen, made her way into the chicest nightclubs and playrooms around town, effectively burying her alter ego, Sunburst Rhapsody Miller, the naïve, provincial child of hippies -- who grew up in Eugene and graduated from Reed College, no less. She had the power of the pen and the arrogance to think she was unstoppable. So, of course, she fell, herself a victim of the tabloid justice she used to dispense with asperity. Banished from the ultra-cool “Style” section of the paper to do penance in the obituary department, Val now bides her time in the hope that all will be forgiven.

While in obits, Val makes an error on a biography, listing the cause of death as suicide when no official designation had yet been issued, thus angering the family and friends of the deceased, one of the original graffiti artists in New York. Val’s only thought is to save her reputation, so in a cowardly way she declines to make a correction.

Sunburst and her long-dead father had shared a love of old-fashioned movies, and in a rather bizarre scene, Val channels Mary Astor from The Maltese Falcon when confronted by a friend of the dead artist who wants Val to investigate what he believes to have been the murder of his friend. Suddenly Val is no longer satisfied to simply rest in limbo awaiting another chance at life among the beautiful people. She must now muster enough evidence to bring the killer to light and maybe become a “real” reporter in the process.

Overall I enjoyed this book, even though I didn’t think it really hit its stride until the last sixty pages. In addition, it was hard to determine what sort of tone the author was trying to establish. There was the sassy, chick-lit, beautiful people insider stuff mixed up with the tough, contemporary female reporter stuff mixed with the B-movie tough guy and gal stuff. That’s a lot of stuff.

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