A former Boston newspaper reporter, Hallie Ahern is newly arrived in Providence, Rhode Island. Her last big story before leaving Boston was a career-maker, but she behaved unprofessionally by becoming romantically involved with her subject, who was later sent to prison.
Now Hallie is starting over, with more humility after a dangerous flirtation with substance abuse. She is currently nursing a nighttime addiction to the local shock jock, Late Night Leonard, who hints of illegal machinations behind an upcoming election on casino gambling and suspicious lottery interests. A visit to the neighborhood market leads to further complications when the storekeeper is shot in the head, with Hallie a potential witness.
Regardless of any danger to herself, Hallie's first instinct is to write about the story, positioning herself for a promotion at The Chronicle, a much-needed opportunity to escape from the satellite bureau where she now labors. Putting on her investigative journalism cap, with Late Night Leonard as a confidential source, Hallie sets out to uncover the graft and resuscitate her career.
The intrepid reporter has some close calls with a variety of unsavory sorts, doing background “research” at local casinos with special attention to legalized gambling, crooked politicians and avid gamblers. She even witnesses a fatal accident. Or is it murder? When Hallie uncovers a bit too much information and writes about it, she becomes a target for the killers. Unable to stay away from the blackjack tables, Hallie also runs up a hefty credit card deficit she can ill afford.
Unfortunately, for this reader, this is the little mystery that couldn’t, although it tries really, really hard. But the author fails to deliver too often in too many ways, not the least of which is the protagonist. Hallie can’t decide if she is a grownup or a professional victim, vacillating between responsible reporting and compulsive behavior, a gambling jones that threatens her financial security and a twelve-step program she blithely disdains.
The characters are colorful if predictable, but the mystery never rises beyond ho-hum, the usual good guys (an attractive DA) and bad guys (crooked pols and oversized thugs with guns) and Hallie running for her life at the end of the story. Does she get saved by the hair on her chinny-chin-chin? Of course. But this character has a lot more twelve-step work to do before she comes back for an encore anytime soon.