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Black and White and Dead All Over: Book Review

August 18, 2009

Black and White and Dead All Over
John Darnton
Anchor Books
Paperback, August 2009 351 pages
$16.00

When Theodore Ratnoff, assistant managing editor of the New York Globe, is found murdered in the newsroom, the murder weapon, an editor’s spike, seems a particularly grisly bit of poetic justice for a little-liked editor. Virtually everyone in the newsroom could be a suspect, even as the bodies, and tensions, mount. Covering the story for the Globe, reporter Jude Hurley is as stumped for ledes as the police are for clues. Jude works uneasily with Priscilla Bollingsworth, the officer assigned to the case, to chase a killer, while meeting deadlines, and finding a way to keep the imperiled paper running.

Darnton’s fictional New York Globe newsroom is absolutely right. Eccentric columnists and veteran editors combine nostalgia for the paper’s heyday with anxieties about dropping sales figures and the role of bloggers or the Internet. Without getting in the way of the mystery. Each character is perfectly New York, from Bashir the coffee vendor’s quips to Officer Bollingsworth’s awkwardness about her privileged uptown past. At times, the cast of characters is so crowded it’s like a confused Dickensian parody, but it’s hard to pinpoint any one character whose loss wouldn’t reverberate.
Betrayal, corrupt cops, old grudges and bloodshed keep the suspense churning frenetically in this well crafted and riveting tale.

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