All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Front Page News by Katie Rowney

Front Page NewsFront Page News
Katie Rowney
Penguin Books AUS
2016, 288p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Cadet journalist Stacey McCallaghan is struggling to find anything newsworthy to report on in the small country town of Toomey. Front-page stories consist of the price of cattle and lawn bowls results, and Stacey spends more time laying out the crossword than covering actual news.

Until the first dead body turns up.

While the local police fumble the investigation, ambitious Stacey is just pleased to have something other than cattle sales to write about. Plus, she now has an excuse to spend more time with the arrogantly attractive Detective Scott Fitzgerald. But when Stacey shows up at one crime scene too many, she moves to the top of the most wanted list. Stacey must uncover the truth before anyone else gets hurt – or the police put her behind bars.

Light-hearted and laugh-out-loud funny, this charming novel will have readers falling in love with the surprisingly deadly town of Toomey.

Pretty much all books require some sort of ‘just go with it’ mentality. There’s always things you have to conveniently ignore: the missing parents in YA books. The random who solves crimes in pretty much every crime novel ever. Impossibly implausible romantic situations. It’s really individual how much you can get go, just to enjoy the story. Sometimes it’s easy. And sometimes it’s really, really hard.

I had a hard time placing a lot of faith in the main character. She’s not even 22 and despite claiming to have had ‘numerous’ gap years she’s somehow found herself a cadetship (presumably armed with a journalism degree?) at a newspaper in a country town. As a crime reporter. Did I mention it’s a small town? Of less than 2000 people? How is there even a need for a crime reporter? Well apparently there’s something happening that keeps the police force of 10 busy. It’s an employee per 200 people! Interesting – my local command boasts a population of some 200,000 and only 111 police. Strikes me as somewhat unlikely really. It’s like the local newspaper which seems to have about the same amount of people working for it as the police station. Including another cadet who covers all of the local sports. How is there enough work to enable two full time cadets? There’s a lot of complaining about how little money they earn but…..I don’t even know how either of them have jobs.

Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. The local police force of 10 (there might be 10 apparently but only 3 are really important, so forget about the other 7) boasts a Detective in his mid-20s, who seemed to get this Detective badge based in a town even smaller than this one. He voluntarily wears a police uniform and drives a marked cruiser because he prefers it. For people who enjoy wearing uniforms, there is a whole hierarchy of ranks that involve wearing a uniform. I’ve never come across a detective anywhere in reality or fiction that didn’t wear dress clothes or a suit. I’m not even sure I’d believe a cop in uniform who introduced himself as detective. Our first glimpse of Detective (what? Constable? Sergeant? I’m not sure) Scott Fitzgerald isn’t exactly reassuring either – he pukes at the crime scene but our fearless heroine does not because she’s seen loads of dead bodies already in her illustrious career. In the two months Stacey has been in town, she talks of Fitzgerald mostly ignoring her unless he’s briefing her at a crime scene for her paper – honestly, how many crime scenes could she possibly have attended? Apparently there has been “loads” of fatal crashes and even an airplane crash. This town has the potential for more disaster than Mt Thomas. Channel 7 must be three minutes away from setting up a film crew. That must be why there is even a detective? When a murder occurs in a tiny town, aren’t homicide detectives usually called in from a bigger station in order to investigate? Scott Fitzgerald is literally no PJ Hasham, unfortunately.

Honestly, it goes on. The town has a racetrack, which only provides more oddities: jockeys arriving to stable horses (they don’t do this), racing occurring far more frequently than would be likely in such a location, racing starting at an odd time, inconsistencies with betting for such a location, inconsistencies with the rules about betting in general, inconsistencies with the rules in owning a horse, etc. Because I grew up around racing, I found these really annoying.

There’s a kind of romance that begins between Stacey and Detective Scott but if I’m completely honest, it at times unsettled me. There’s a scene where he pulls her over and I think it’s supposed to be a bit cute, like he’s being all bad cop and whatever but it comes across as creepy. Really, really creepy. He hauls her out of the car for not having her license on her and stands over her – it’s reiterated throughout the story that Stacey is quite petite and it’s framed to make him seem quite physically intimidating and he spends the entire scene being a giant douche, which she feels is in retaliation for ‘baiting’ him earlier. He even admits to wanting to give her a bit of a ‘hard time’ which could be taken as wanting to have a bit of fun with her, but the scene isn’t written to be amusing – at least I didn’t feel it was in any way amusing. It was awkward….

….but not as awkward as the scene in which Detective Scott and “Sarge”, who is, I think, the dude in charge of this bustling little station, haul her in for questioning over the various homicides that are occurring in the town. They base this on such flimsy police work as: she is new in town and the murders occurred after she arrived. She was present at a lot of the crime scenes (several of which they called her or informed her about them) and because she likes to run so therefore she’s fit and could, realistically, heft grown unconscious men….? Really, I almost stopped reading at this point because she’s a 21yo midget who weighs about 50kg and she runs, which presumably gives her impressive cardio endurance but probably does little for brute strength. What they believe to be a possible motive for Stacey being the murderer is pretty ridiculous and they should probably have all handed in their badges for stupidity.

The culprit is quite easy to guess, as soon as the reader is able to connect the victims. A random story inserted into the plot at some stage makes it even easier to connect all of the dots…. I actually feel that the villain was kind of the most interesting thing in a way. It did make sense and the way in which that was done was interesting, which shows how much potential this book could’ve had if there were less details about the small town, all of which seemed to conflict with it actually being a small town. If you’re going to set your book in a tiny town, sometimes you have to deal with the things that are inconvenient, such as minimal facilities. I’d have liked a lot more about the eventual culprit – more scenes with them in it, more background, and some more information after the fact.

Unfortunately I found too many things about this book distracting to really enjoy it. I kept stopping and wondering if that would really be likely (or in some cases, knowing that it actually wouldn’t) and although I like that this is a different take on the new adult genre, it did make it a bit hard to take Stacey seriously as she has so little life and journalistic experience and yet basically solves all of the things. The fact that she ended up becoming a suspect (well, person of interest, I’m not sure she was ever a serious suspect which makes the interrogation scene even more uncomfortable) just seemed to suggest that all of the police in town were barely worthy of wearing a uniform and keeping a community safe. The romance didn’t work for me either – the groundwork is a bit sloppy and the two of them spend a lot of time bickering like siblings in a manner that’s both childish and unprofessional. But to be honest, pretty much everything both of them do is unprofessional.


Book #129 of 2016

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