Monday, January 28, 2019

Book Review: The Suspect

By Jami Deise

While “fake news” has only recently become a battle cry, reporters’ reputations have been on a downhill slide for years. Once one of the most trusted professions, journalists are now viewed with the same skepticism as used-car salesmen. Voters on both sides of the aisle, as well as people who pay little attention to politics, have been inundated for decades by the Jerry Springers, Geraldo Riveras, celebrity paparazzi, and other “reporters” who seem more interested in ratings and attention than actual facts. As a former public relations executive who holds a journalism degree, I view these developments with dismay. Almost all of the reporters I worked with strove to get at the truth and reflect all sides of a story. Still, when some journalists profess to be telling the truth on one hand, and then in court claim to be providing entertainment that no one should take seriously, it’s easy to become cynical about the entire profession and everyone in it.

Reporter Kate Waters has become British author Fiona Barton’s alter ego, and the writer’s third book has placed her protagonist squarely in the crosshairs. While Kate reported on the story in Barton’s debut The Widow (review) and in her follow-up The Child (review), in The Suspect the tables are turned when, halfway through the novel, Kate becomes part of the story.

The novel kicks off with the disappearance of two eighteen-year-old British girls in Thailand. As Kate follows the story, interviewing parents and pursuing leads, she’s at her best – empathizing with the parents, teaching her underling Joe, and resuming her strong working relationship with detective Bob Sparkes. She’s a reporter at the top of her game, breaking stories while never breaking the trust she’s built up, and her rivals envy her. But when Kate’s son Jake becomes a suspect in the case, suddenly Kate is thrust into the spotlight, and she receives a fun house mirror look at herself and her profession. It might not be “fake news,” but Kate is forced to outwit her rival reporters in order to protect her son and her career. When she sees through their facades, she’s forced to confront her own deceptions.

To be honest, while I figured out the plot twists of the mystery fairly easily, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book one iota. I love Kate, and watching her personal and professional lives collide in this book made the mystery take a back seat. While Kate is not the only point-of-view character, she is clearly the star of the book, and the character development Barton has done with her protagonist and those closest to her – Joe and Bob – promise that future books will be even more compelling.

In my review of The Child, I wrote, “Two books in, Barton continues the theme that all it takes for an evil man to flourish is for a woman to defend him over the people he hurts. Her Kate is well-positioned to take on the role of a crusader, never doubting the voices of women who’ve been victimized.”

Rather than becoming a crusader, though, Kate is forced to make compromises when it’s her own child at risk. Barton continues her theme, but is Kate poised to become a woman who defends an evil man? I can’t wait to see what the next book entails.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

Dianna said...

This is on my wishlist. I really liked The Child.