Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Crime Beat Girl by Geri Dreiling

Crime Beat GirlCrime Beat Girl by Geri Dreiling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Plot twists I didn’t see coming!

With her engagement and life in D.C. stuck in neutral, journalist Debbie Bradley returns to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, to be there for her mother, who was recently diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Her mother, Beth Hughes, is a renowned personal injury attorney and is not pleased that her daughter has dropped a promising career in the nation’s capital (and a fiancé), to come home and play nursemaid when she feels she doesn’t need one. But Debbie’s decision to relocate is facilitated by a timely opening for a city/crime beat reporter on a new, upscale magazine focused on the town called River City, which happens to be under the direction of an old friend and former college mentor.

Although not thrilled with the column’s moniker, Crime Beat Girl, Debbie jumps in with both feet, and on her way to her first assignment, she witnesses a joyride gone bad, which ends with one 15-year-old dead and the 13-year-old driver in jail awaiting trial. But as Debbie delves into the deep background of the incident and other stories, she begins to get some traction, both in recognition and in contacts, from her well-written and well-researched pieces. She also attracts some unwanted attention from those that don’t want her asking questions or snooping around.

One contact she’s determined to cultivate is that of the lead detective investigating several of the police calls she’s covered: Daniel Flannery. Detective Flannery, a prickly 20-plus-year veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, seems like a stand-up kind of guy, but his reputation was tarnished years earlier and while his fellow officers respect, appreciate, and support him; the brass, including the mayor, not so much. Mayor Jim Robinson, a former SLMPD officer and, at one time, Daniel’s best friend, is now married to Flannery’s ex-wife and publicly criticizes the detective every chance he gets.

Debbie also meets the defense attorney representing the young teen driver involved in the deadly joyride. Chase Laclede, like Debbie herself, is the child of two lawyers only rather than running from a future with the law; he embraced it and is quickly making a name for himself defending those that can’t afford their own representation.

As Debbie follows her stories and her column strikes gold, she suddenly finds herself targeted by some unknown someone: getting shot at and nearly run down by a car in the park. And when her mother receives some good news regarding her health situation, Debbie begins to wonder if St. Louis is the place for her, or should she go back to her life in D.C.?

Crime Beat Girl is a good story with plot turns that absolutely took me by surprise. I can honestly say, “I didn’t see that coming!” and am smacking my forehead going, “Of course!” Debbie Bradley is a smart, strong-willed young woman who is in the middle of some significant life changes. Her fiancé of several years seems only to have eyes for his career, and she feels the need to progress. She and her strong-willed mother (she comes by it naturally) are trying to navigate their adult relationship while living in her childhood home. And third, she is starting a new job in an (almost) new location. She’s very likable, and while in some circles being a reporter is a bad thing, she is portrayed as having pure and heartfelt motives behind her vocation. I liked the description and details of what this particular reporter’s daily working life was like and her role in the process of “feeding the monster.” The conflicts she encounters are understandable and natural, not contrived. I rooted for her success the entire book.

I enjoyed the setting of St. Louis and that it was somewhere other than New York or L.A. Debbie’s stories are set at various locations in that city’s changing landscape, and she gets involved with people at every level of the community. Some of the oldest families in St. Louis are (fictionally) portrayed, at both extremes of the social strata. The author drops in places and facts that were fun and interesting as well as references to some very current and still emotionally-charged events.

Finally, although there is no mention of this being the start of a new series, it certainly feels like one (and I certainly hope it is.) There are some developing storylines related to possible love interests, not only for Debbie but maybe for Beth as well, and I would like to see how they pan out. Readers will close the book on a couple of other lingering questions; however, they are not life-altering cliffhangers for the readers if this is Debbie’s solo voyage.

I recommend CRIME BEAT GIRL for mystery readers in general, those that would enjoy a reporter as a positive protagonist as the sleuth, and those that like a strong female lead.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

See my original review on Reedsy Discovery!

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