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Eyes of the Innocent    by Brad Parks order for
Eyes of the Innocent
by Brad Parks
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Eyes of the Innocent is the second in Brad Parks' series starring keen and idealistic Newark Eagle-Examiner investigative reporter Carter Ross. It follows Parks' award-winning debut in Faces of the Gone.

Two small boys (ages four and six), home alone, die in a fire. Executive editor Harold Brodie insists that reporting focus on 'a space heater story'. Not only that, but Carter's 'fifty-something, chain-smoking, antacid-devouring, coffee-guzzling editor' Szanto tells him to work on it with Sweet Thang (Lauren McMillan), the honey-haired, newest intern, whose father golfs with Brodie.

As they team up on the investigation, Carter fights his visceral attraction to the much younger intern, while city editor Tina Thompson shows signs of jealousy and intern Tommy Hernandez warns Carter that his gay intuition tells him Lauren seems 'a little stalkerish.'

Carter soon discovers that Sweet Thang has an amazing natural talent for getting people to open up to her, starting with the mother of the two small victims. Akilah Harris, tells a tragic tale of a mortgage scam, working two jobs to make ends meet, and leaving her sons behind a locked door 'so they couldn't get in no trouble.' Documentation on the mortgage turns out to be missing.

In parallel, breaking news covers the disappearance of Newark Councilman Wendell A. Byers Jr.. And Carter uncovers a link between Windy Byers, Akilah Harris, and the house that burned down. While Carter and Sweet Thang dig, Parks introduces readers to Brazilian Primo as he builds a real estate empire out of 'a complete, one-stop shop for home purchasing', flipped houses, and sweetheart land sales.

Of course it all gets up close and personal, with a kidnapping, a last minute hostage negotiation, a rescue - and in the resulting doozy of a story 'there was no mention of a space heater anywhere.' The characters are unusual and appealing, the setting gritty, and the plotlines timely and well developed - I want more of Carter Ross, the sooner the better!

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