Broken-Field Mystery

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Check out Honest Jim’s review of Dick Belsky’s hot-off-the-presses Clare Carlson mystery, BELOW THE FOLD:

Dick Belsky is the Gayle Sayers of the sudden plot twist, a master of the literary limp leg, hip fake and juke as he takes readers on a juddering broken-field run with his latest Clare Carlson mystery, Below The Fold.

Belsky’s at the top of his game with this one, deftly reversing field with one surprise after another. Just about the time you think you have him cornered and the mystery solved — boom, another magic spin move of words that leave you grabbing air and rushing to catch up.

You really don’t mind, though, because the copy’s fast, the patter’s snappy and it’s a kick to get faked out by a crime fiction Hall of Famer. You also get an insider’s view of the television news business that only a former big-time journalist like Belsky can deliver in a manner that’s integral to the story instead of a sideshow distraction.

That’s because Carlson, who is unraveling this mystery, is a New York TV news exec who, like Belsky, made her bones as an ink-stained wretch — a print journalist, to those who don’t belong to this tribe.

The title is an old-school newspaper put-down term for a story that might be important enough for the front page, but not hot enough to claim prime real estate above where the paper is folded to place for display in the sales rack. As in: “Put that story below the fold.”

That arcane and antiquated term is important because it points to a deliberate decision by Carlson and her news team to go against the grain of journalistic convention and dive deep into a story that would normally play below the fold — the murder of a homeless woman named Dora Gayle.

They play it up big and get a minor ratings splash — then move to the next day’s rush of events to “feed the beast,” another term for the insatiable daily demand for fresh, hot stories to sell papers and keep eyeballs glued to your station instead of clicking to a competitor’s channel. Dora Gayle fades to black.

The beast demands fresh meat, every day. Like the murder of a beautiful blonde stockbroker, savagely beaten to death in her apartment, her face a bloody pulp. Grace Mancuso, an amoral carnal and monetary predator, is the stuff front page murders are made of. She’s sexy, up to her eyeballs in an elaborate scheme at her investment firm to rip off hundreds of customers, willing to sell out her partners to the cops to save her own hide — and dead.

Carlson’s ex-husband, a detective named Sam, calls to give her a heads-up about a note the killer left at the crime scene. Five names are listed in the note — the billionaire boss who owns her station; a defense attorney who represents mob bosses and drug dealers; a suspended homicide detective suspected of launching a suspect out of an upper story window; a college president and ex-Congressman notorious for sleeping with women who aren’t his wife.

And Dora Gayle.

Boom. The first of many plot twists Belsky delivers as Carlson and the cops chase this bewildering clue to connect the names on this list to Mancuso’s murder. Is the murderer named on that list? Or is it a lineup of past and future victims?

Belsky keeps you guessing with his storytelling jukes and hip fakes and richly entertained with Carlson’s smart-ass patter.

A word about that patter. The story is told from Carlson’s point of view. But it’s got the lemme-tell-ya tone of a guy sitting in the semi-dark at the short end of a long bar with an adult beverage in hand, spinning a yarn.

The image is forties-era black and white. And the guy is wearing a snap-brim fedora with a press card stuck in the hat band.

The author provide an advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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