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Yesterday's Fatal by Jan Brogan
Review by Ernest Lilley
St. Martin's Minotaur Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312359973
Date: 01 May 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Webpage / Show Official Info /

Hallie Ahern, reporter for the Rhode Island Chronicle, is back in the thick of another murder investigation, but she seems to be the only one who thinks, or cares, that the Latino woman she found dead in a car crash might have been murdered. Well, to be fair, lots of people are interested, especially the local mobster who runs an insurance fraud scam using immigrants as accident claimants. But with no one about to come forward and complain, Hallie's on her own trying to dig up a story...and maybe solve a murder.

Hallie Ahern's back in her second mystery by author/journalist Jan Brogan, and it's full of insight into everything it touches, from the plights of emerging immigrant communities in the Northeast to the pressures on newspapers to cut staffs to match shrinking circulations. With the Providence paper that Hallie works for about to be snatched up by a national chain, she knows she needs something to help her stand out on the investigative staff...or she'll find herself standing out on a bread line with no more papers to write for.

When she comes upon the scene of a late night car crash though, she's not thinking about all that. Crashes, even "Fatals" aren't really much in the way of news these days. But Hallie notices that the drivers door is ajar at the crash, and the old woman up the hill who saw it, said it "really looked like that car had it in for the tree...hitting it twice and all." Then, when her Gambler's Anonymous Sponsor tells her about the insurance accident scam that allowed him to extend his cab fleet when the previous owner got scared out, she puts two and two together and comes up with something that smells very much like a story. And since she's at pretty much the bottom rung on the paper's investigative team, and very much at risk during the inevitable downsizing, she really needs a hot story.

The only problem is that this is a tough story to nail down, and her editor knows it. Nobody in the Latino community is going to want to go to the police, and there are easier stories about corrupt politicians, something Rhode Island has been famous for, so she's got to do her digging on her own time. Hoping that she's not digging her own grave in the process.

As readers of the author's last book, A Confidential Source already know, Allie is a recovered drug addict as well as a gambling addict. She's walking the straight and narrow now, running herself to exhaustion on the jogging trail and working hard to keep herself occupied...but the thrill of the chase feels an awful lot like getting high, and the more dangerous the chase becomes, the harder she runs after the scent.

In her spare time Hallie tries to get a life, one that has some normal social niceties in it, like a boyfriend that will admit she exists. That's not likely to happen with her current one, a local prosecutor on the way up, whom a nosy reporter girlfriend won't help any. Fortunately, there are lots of other fish in the sea, though her reporter instincts should tell her to trust her nose for freshness, if not trouble.

Newspaper gals as investigators are a good model for the genre, since the motivations of both overlap, even if they don't coincide. If you liked either of Kit Frazier's stores about a reporter trying to get off the obit beat, Scoop or Dead Copy , you'll find yourself right at home with Hallie. Her beat is a fertile one, covering Providence, Rhode Island, and the surrounding areas, which has historically been a hotbed of organized crime…though I'm sure that's all cleaned up these days. Author and freelance journalist Jan Brogan would know better than I, so I'll have to keep reading Hallie's adventures to find out for sure.

I don't mind that, because Jan Brogan is one author worth waiting for by the presses to see what tomorrow's edition is going to look like.

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