Brad Parks
March 2014
Minotaur Books

People in a small Newark neighborhood are getting sick—flu symptoms, bones snapping… some are even dying.  Carter Ross gets a tip from one of the residents and goes to investigate.  Hours later he comes down with the same symptoms of the mysterious “flu” the residents are experiencing.  He soon tracks the problem to a large construction site in the area, but the owner of the site promises that everything harmful has been removed from the ground.  When the owner winds up dead and tossed in the street like a sack of trash a few days later, Ross has more to investigate than health problems.  Juggling dates with his new girlfriend and the jealousy of his old flame Tina Thompson adds to the general chaos of Ross’s life—and when Tina gives Ross some big news, it has equally big implications for Ross’s future.  Navigating the minefield of female emotions might prove as dangerous as his current investigation.

This is the fifth installment of the Carter Ross series, and does nothing short of demonstrating Parks’ brilliance yet again at crafting a novel that is at once funny—with clever dialogue and wry observations—yet has a substantive investigative storyline. THE PLAYER delves into the world of corrupt building projects and bureaucratic payoffs as well as the hazards of living in the midst of New Jersey’s toxic past.  Ross is a self-deprecating and clever character with a passion for uncovering the truth and giving a voice to the voiceless.  He is also willing to go to extreme lengths to get his story—including jumping naked into a tanning bed and turning himself into a walking orange.  This has quickly become one of my favorite series and I anxiously anticipate each new installment.  I am fond of the entire cast of characters from Ross’ newsroom, and I especially like where Parks has taken the relationship between Ross and his editor Tina in this novel.  Pick up THE PLAYER—it’s a delightfully complex puzzle absolutely worth losing yourself in.

Erica Ruth Neubauer