OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS by Jonathan Segura

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Publisher’s Weekly deputy reviews editor Segura, a profane, grimly witty newsroom noir set on the mean streets of Omaha.

Twenty-something Bernard Cockburn is a dead-end guy in a dead-end job: a drug-fuddled, rather lazy burnout who works as a crime reporter for a weekly newspaper. Yet in the way of noir heroes, he has a doggedness that could be either a sneaky integrity or just another kind of self-destructiveness. Chasing what seems at first a story about penny-ante municipal graft and petty harassment by a neighborhood watch in a gentrifying part of town, Cockburn stumbles into a conspiracy that gets bigger, deadlier and more intricate at every step. He’s warned by a prostitute informant to butt out, and several of the people he questions turn up dead soon after, but of course he can’t resist pursuing the case even if it puts him in danger—maybe especially if it puts him in danger. Meanwhile Cockburn’s private life is imploding, too. The girlfriend he half-despises is pregnant, and, the couple’s interpersonal and pharmaceutical problems notwithstanding, she determines to have the child. Segura’s unadorned, telegraphic style can seem one-note, at times almost parodic, but he handles the hard-boiled conventions with unusual resourcefulness. Bernard professes no interest in motive: “ ‘why’ concerns me not. Why? Because people, being people, do fucked-up things to themselves and to one another.” His cynicism becomes both the book’s chief stratagem and Bernard’s best tool as a reporter: no depravity or viciousness can surprise him. Best of all, this hero stays stubbornly anti; there’s no magical late-book reformation. Segura counts on Bernard’s wisecracking relentlessness to keep the reader on Bernard’s side despite his being mostly despicable.

Doesn’t break new ground, but smart, fast-paced, cleverly plotted and with a gritty and persuasive city setting—an auspicious debut.

Pub Date: July 8th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4165-6291-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2008