Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Internet has ruined so much of the work that used to be the province of private investigators. Google can unearth precious court records, and unobtrusive cameras provide a digital tail, so what's the point of shoe leather? Hence John Darnton's savvy decision to reach into another arguably dying profession—newspaper reporter—to find a sleuth who isn't averse to lurking around in dank basements and feeding a pay phone. Never mind that he could be exploring 3D building renderings and recording his case progress on Twitter.

Assistant managing editor Ted Ratnoff was known for dumbing down the New York Globe edit by edit, so when his body is discovered on the newsroom floor with an editor's spike planting one of his signature purple-pen notes into his chest, the police don't even know where to start. Assigned to cover the murder for the paper, young reporter Jude Hurley is besieged with questions by newsroom staff and police detective Priscilla Bollingsworth, and winds up checking every fly-by-night rumor that crosses his cube. The case gives him new reasons to enjoy his work, but it alienates him from his coworkers as he finds out that Ratnoff was not only sitting on a controversial story at the time of his death, but had incriminating materials on most of his co-workers. The murder is great for circulation, but Jude frets that the investigation will derail his career nonetheless.


Darnton's Black And White And Dead All Over pops with vivid details about the grime of the legacy office where everyone is considered a culprit until proven otherwise. He gives even bit players delicious pulp-novel names—for example, a rival publisher and Murdoch stand-in is named Lester Moloch—which helps distinguish members of the double-decker cast, but matches them with enough background, delivered through wry details, to give them life. And he doesn't pull his punches from the industry, particularly in a corporate-retreat scene describing seminars like "A Buyout Can Mean A Big Wet Kiss." A subplot concerning Jude's romantic life is dull from the start, especially by contrast with the other players and the dirty deeds they represent, but the circles Darnton traces around the killer are unpredictably suspenseful and evil fun.

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