Review: A Reporter At A Dying Paper Solves A Serial Murder

Review: A Reporter At A Dying Paper Solves A Serial Murder

Willie Black is a 60-year-old interracial reporter covering the beating of a dying policeman in Richmond, Virginia. He smokes, drinks and falls in love a lot, knows the bad side of his town like his own face and is passionate about work that doesn't work for him.

Author Howard Owen, a former reporter from Virginia, first introduced Willie to Oregon Hill in 2012, and now, in book 12 of the underrated crime series, the hero's hand in action is gentler than ever. The decline of print journalism is a recurring theme in these books, and thanks to massive budget cuts and layoffs by greedy and absentee businessmen, Willie's newspaper has dedicated his life to looking like it's about to let him go.

As "Dogtown" opens, a plumber, Richmond's first murder victim in the New Year, is found in a bad part of town near the railroad tracks, his throat slit and his finger cut off. When two other victims are similarly slaughtered, Willie realizes that there is a serial killer in town with whom he has a love-hate relationship.

With police investigations going nowhere, Willie, a competent, hard-working investigative reporter, sets out on his own path to end his reign of terror while generously mentoring a young reporter looking for his job. He works long hours without overtime pay, and takes on a dodgy police chief, a morally hacked sheriff, and even anti-vaccination activists to bring the case to a shocking conclusion.

In a way, Willie is the archetype. Most American newspapers have one or two veteran journalists like him who have long struggled to fulfill the thankless task of holding officials accountable as they struggle to keep their jobs and uphold the First Amendment. However, his quirks and wry, self-deprecating sense of humor are his own.

As always with Owen's novel, the writing is subtle, the dark story is full of humor, and Willy's group of friends and ex-wives is absolutely captivating.

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Mystery Writers of America Award-winning Edgar Bruce DeSilva is the author of Mulligan's crime novels, including The Horror Line.

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