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by Kelly Lange
Warner Books, July 2003
352 pages
ISBN: 0446612561

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

You can generally spot a crime novel written by a journalist at 20 paces -- and Kelly Lange's The Reporter is no exception. She takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the glamorous movie and media world of Los Angeles, leaving the reader feeling like they're in full pursuit of an exclusive story.

It's not too tricky to spot that the writer is a TV journalist, as the book comes across as a series of slick soundbites. Maxi Poole is a reporter for Channel Six and finds herself the centre of the news -- and one of the suspects -- when her actor ex-husband Jack Nathanson is murdered. But there's a long queue of people who aren't sorry to see Jack dead, notably two other ex-wives and a host of movie industry movers and shakers, including a deranged former child star and a film company mogul with suspected Mob connections.

This is the kind of book you have to hope no one will test you on later, as the action charges past at a rate of knots and the point of view swings around equally wildly. At times, too, you're asking yourself just how reliable a narrator Maxi is and what she has to hide.

And here lies one of the book's weaknesses. Most of the characters are fairly superficial, including two wise-cracking detectives and a gruff editor straight out of the pages of a passing comic book. Even Maxi herself is an underdrawn figure -- we pick up snippets about her, yet never quite get to know what makes her tick.

But Lange writes with energy and humour -- and knows how to use cliffhangers. I particularly liked the ex-wives who, instead of hating the sight of each other, are bosom pals! And I have a feeling I'm going to enjoy the later books even more once Lange settles into her stride, anchors her narrative and lets Maxi take centre stage throughout.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, July 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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