Thursday, May 2, 2024

"Bad Boy Beat"

Clea Simon is the Boston Globe-bestselling author of three nonfiction books and thirty-one mysteries, including World Enough and Hold Me Down, both of which were named “Must Reads” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book.

A graduate of Harvard University and former journalist, she has contributed to publications ranging from and Harvard Magazine to Yankee and The New York Times.

Simon’s latest mystery is Bad Boy Beat, which kicks off a fast-paced amateur sleuth series starring Em Kelton, a Boston crime reporter with a nose for news.

The author applied the Page 69 Test to Bad Boy Beat and reported the following:
From page 69:
that again—she’d confirmed what Simpson already knew. Nicky’s wasn’t the first body on that gun. I guess it’s some satisfaction to know it would be the last.

It’s not much, but it’s a start. I cruise by the cop shop on my way to the Standard but I don’t stop. Wherever he slept, Jack’s probably only now rousing, and with everyone back in their offices once again, I don’t see a place to park. Besides, I don’t want to push Saul more than I need to. I can spend an hour looking up city councilors on the parking lot break-ins while I wait for Jack to surface. Maybe I’ll even try Benny again, now that I’m pretty sure I’m not stepping on Roz’s painted toes.

“Earth to Em.”

Damn it! I sit up with enough of a start that I have to grab my mug. From the eyes on me, I can tell I’d visibly nodded off, right in the ten o’clock meeting. Maybe even snored. But my mug had stayed upright, so I couldn’t have been out that long. Could I?

“Sorry, boss.” Sometimes it’s best to just own up to it. Truth be told, Saul looks worried rather than angry. “I was staking out a source’s place last night and slept in my car.”

“So, what did you get?” He’s not sure he believes me, and I don’t have anything to make my case.

“He didn’t come home.” Borelli, over to my right, ducks his head, but I can see he’s smirking. Ruggle is staring at me with puppy dog eyes. He can tell this is personal for me, and at that moment I hate him. “Waste of a night,” I push back. God help me, I toss my hair. “Most of my other contacts aren’t up at this hour, but I’ll get more tonight.”

“Not by deadline then.” Saul, moving on.

Ruggle is waiting when the meeting ends, bouncing on the balls of his feet as if he’s about to attempt a jump shot. I don’t see myself as a basket, so I do my best to rush by him.

“Wait, Em.” He’s too close behind me to ignore, so I turn with a glare designed to shut him down.

“What?” If the glare doesn’t do it, the bark should.

“I was wondering, do you need some help with the database?”

Now he’s got my attention. I stare, waiting for the second head to appear.

“You know, the ATF database of ballistics records.”

It rings a bell in my tired brain. “Yeah, that’s national, right?”
Yes! Bad Boy Beat passes! Page 69 drops readers right into the middle of Em Kelton’s determined search for a mystery killer and also shows the obstacles – some self-imposed – that she faces.

The page opens with a confirmation: “Nicky’s wasn’t the first body on that gun.” That lets you know you’re dealing with murder, more than one, and that Em has already started to put together her case that the one random street crime that starts this book is really part of a series of planned killings.

It also has her dozing off at an editorial meeting at the Standard, the newspaper where she works, which is for better or worse, pure Em. When I was revising this book, my agent expressed the concern that Em wasn’t “likable.” I countered that she didn’t have to be likable as long as she was relatable (and what’s with insisting that women characters be likable anyway? Should we also tell them to smile more?). Em has some bad habits, and she’s not a model employee. Here, we see her at her worst: not only nodding off but disappointing her editor, all while she watches the male reporters at the meeting with suspicion. Are they out for her or are they allies? Em’s not one to take any chances, and the reference to “Roz’s painted toes” hints that the only colleague she fully trusts is her BFF Roz, a City Hall reporter. But the page does end with another avenue for investigation opening up. I’ll leave it up to the reader to figure out if Em has enough sense to follow through.
Visit Clea Simon's website.

The Page 69 Test: To Conjure a Killer.

--Marshal Zeringue