Eyes of the Innocent
by Brad Parks
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312574789
Date: 01 February 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In Newark, New Jersey, a house fire kills two small boys and a councilman is kidnapped on the same night. Carter Ross, investigative reporter for the Newark Eagle-Examiner, learns that the two incidents are connected. With the help of a beautiful, young intern, Lauren "Sweet Thang" McMillan, he uncovers a scandalous connection between subprime mortgage rates and the selling of city-owned property for housing development. An evil, greedy housing developer known as Primo will kill anyone who interferes with the growth of his real estate empire.
When he sees the innocent eyes of those two African-American boys who died in the house fire, Carter Ross is determined to find who is responsible for their deaths in Brad Parks's gripping Eyes of the Innocent. As in Faces of the Gone, Carter becomes emotionally involved with the victims of a cruel, vicious killer. A killer who thinks he's too clever to be brought to justice. Enthusiastic, conscientious Carter proves that he's not. In a literary market of foul-mouthed, oversexed, macho investigators, Carter can be described as chivalrous and heroic, a type of modern day knight in shining armor.
Brad Parks has a gift for creating characters that are so realistic, likable and hilarious that the reader wonders if they are modeled after people whom the author has known during his journalistic career. Returning characters are Carter's boss, the grouchy, chain-smoking editor Sal Szanto; the flamboyant, "forever silly" homosexual Cuban intern Tommy Hernandez; the workaholic Tina Thompson who's biological clock has long ago exploded and still wants Carter to father her child; and the enormous gangsta informant with the dreadlocks, Reginald "Tee" Jamison. Carter, who narrates most of the story, still has a wonderful sense of humor. For example, he encounters Maury, the unscrupulous owner of a pawnshop, who is wearing a white shirt with banded collar beneath a three-piece purple suit; Carter describes it as "priest-meets-pimp".
In Faces of the Gone, the reader is introduced to a vicious killer nicknamed "The Director" who terrorizes the drug world. In Eyes of the Innocent, the killer's nickname is Primo and his empire is in the real estate market. In small excerpts between chapters, the reader learns increasingly more about the killer's identity. The reader always remains one step ahead of Carter. However, the killer's true identity is never known until the shocking end. Primo is more vicious than The Director in that he likes to torture his victims, usually for hours, in order to obtain information. He uses a nail gun on one victim. I get nervous just imagining it.
Carter is forced to teach Sweet Thang the ropes of journalism. Through Carter, the reader learns how newspaper articles are written, approved and printed. Most importantly, when interviewing a source, the journalist must remember the key phrases: the familiar "off the record" and the "not for attribution", meaning the journalist won't, under any circumstances, reveal his/her source. The reader also learns how the subprime mortgage rate is a scam that lures poor, uneducated people into buying large homes at small rates that quickly increase over time; soon the buyer can't afford the mortgage and must face foreclosure. Through Tommy, the reader learns some slang homosexual terms such as “down low". When black, muscular men are pretending to meet for poker or watching a football game but they are actually having sex, then they are said to be on the down low.
The newest character at the Newark Eagle-Examiner is the beautiful, rich intern Sweet Thang. She is a soft-hearted, devout Christian who has a crush on her mentor, Carter Ross. She doesn't act selfish, self-centered and spoiled like numerous girls who were raised in a privileged environment. On the contrary, Sweet Thang becomes too emotionally involved with a source and suffers the consequences. For example, she allows the mother of the two dead boys, Akilah Harris, to spend the night at her apartment; the next morning, she discovers her jewelry has been stolen. However, she doesn't go to the police; she only wants her charm bracelet returned because it has sentimental value. Because of Sweet Thang, Tina becomes extremely jealous and constantly accuses Carter of sleeping with the much younger intern. I hope to read more about Sweet Thang in a future sequel. She makes a wonderful edition to the newsroom's zany cast of characters.
Stop the presses! Brad Parks has written another best-selling mystery centered around the life of Carter Ross, the journalistic knight in shining armor. Rife with PG-13 humor, heart-warming drama, suspenseful action and a touch of horror, Eyes of the Innocent should make the headlines of mystery novel newsletters everywhere. Parks has the ability to describe with equal aplomb all races, all neighborhoods, and all socioeconomic backgrounds of Newark, New Jersey. His colorful characters help propel a timely plot of mortgage foreclosures brought about by greedy, crooked housing developers and money lenders. Highly recommended reading, Eyes of the Innocent will make you think twice before signing a mortgage contract. You may be literally signing your life away.