Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Reporter Jack McMorrow Gets More Than He Bargained for When He Accepts a Simple Magazine Assignment

Jack McMorrow is a former New York Times reporter who opted to leave life in the fast lane for a totally different kind of experience in rural Maine. In the book that introduced him, Deadline, Jack had taken a job as editor of the Androscoggin Review, a small rural paper that's about as far from the Times as a newspaperman could get. He expected to find a relatively stress-free, laid-back existence with his girlfriend, Roxanne, but life in Androscoggin turned out to be anything but stress-free. Almost as soon as he arrived there, Jack became entangled in a nasty murder investigation that cost him his girlfriend and soured him on the county and its tiny newspaper.

As the second book in the series opens, we find that Jack has now moved to Prosperity, a poverty-stricken rural town in the middle-of-nowhere. He's living in a rented bat-infested house and spending his days wandering through the woods, watching birds, drinking a lot of beer and accomplishing nothing of any consequence. Roxanne is making a new life for herself out in Colorado, and the only people in Jack's life are Claire and Mary Varney, the couple that lives nearby.

Out of the blue, Jack gets a call from an old friend who's now editing a magazine. He'd like Jack to write a feature article about girls in rural Maine who are having babies way too early--kid having kids. The editor would like Jack to explore the consequences of that for the girls themselves, for their babies, and for the community at large.

Needing the money and having nothing better to do, Jack accepts the assignment. Someone steers him in the direction of a young woman named Missy Hewett, who was something of a star at the local high school. Missy was determined to build a better life for herself than that of her family, such as it was, and better than what most of her classmates could look forward too. Accordingly, she studied hard, avoided the temptations and pitfalls that would ultimately doom most of the other kids in her town, and set her sights on getting into college.

Then she got pregnant.

Rather than surrendering her dreams, Missy gave the baby up for adoption, believing that this was best both for the baby and for herself. She's now attending college in Portland, Maine, and seems to be making a success of herself. Jack decides to make her the focal point of his story. He interviews Missy, and begins interviewing other adults and young people in and around Prosperity. But somewhere along the line, he manages to stir up a reaction he didn't anticipate. All of a sudden, people are shooting out his windows, vandalizing his truck, and it's apparent that Jack has stumbled onto something that may be a lot larger than a simple magazine article.

This is another very good entry in the series, and again, Boyle particularly excels at describing the setting. One feels as if he or she is actually in rural Maine, walking though the woods with Jack McMorrow. The characters are expertly drawn and the plot is a good one. I'm looking forward to moving on to the third book in the series.

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