A mysterious epidemic of illnesses and accidents in Newark’s South Ward is the tip of a very dirty iceberg in reporter Carter Ross’ fifth case.
In the months before she died, 77-year-old Edna Foster’s health dramatically declined. She got recurrent attacks of something that acted like the flu but kept going away after a few days. Then she broke her leg and after that, her arm. After surveying similarly disquieting results among Edna’s neighbors, her granddaughter, medical student Jackie Orr, is convinced that something is rotten in the South Ward and asks Carter Ross, of the Newark Eagle-Examiner, to look into it. Taking newly hatched intern Neesha “Pigeon” Krishnamurthy under his wing, Carter (The Good Cop, 2013, etc.) begins to dig into the particulars of the McAlister Arms, a mammoth new construction project adjoining the blighted neighborhood. But soon after he interviews Vaughn McAlister, who, together with his father, Barry, heads McAlister Properties, Vaughn is beaten to death, and Carter’s editor, Tina Thompson, pulls him off the investigation, demanding he instead find out who killed the developer. The murder will end up closely linked to the rash of medical problems in the South Ward, but before Carter can uncover the connection, he’ll have to straighten out his romantic life, which involves some unwelcome news from his ex-lover Tina, some assertive moves on the part of his sometime-lover, Eagle-Examiner librarian Kira O’Brien, and an awkward episode that involves Pigeon, some potent drinks and a big misunderstanding. It’s typical, and typically satisfying, that even after the mystery is solved, Carter will still have to face his sister’s wedding, to which both Tina and Kira have managed to get invited.
Muckraking has rarely been so meaty or so funny.