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By Jan Brogan

Mysterious Press, April 20, 2005
ISBN: 0892960078

Reviewed by Karen Meek

A CONFIDENTIAL SOURCE features ex Boston Ledger reporter Hallie Ahern. After professional misconduct forced her to leave her Boston job, Hallie spent months in low wage casual employment until settling down in Providence, RI working for the Providence Morning Chronicle in one of their satellite offices.

Hallie has a compulsive personality as evinced by her former addiction to sleeping tablets and her nightly phone calls to ‘Leonard’s Late Night’ talk radio show. The hot topic of the moment is whether gambling should be legalised. The extremely popular Mayor is for it but Leonard is running a campaign against it.

Hallie soon gets a chance to raise her profile and get a job on the Chronicle’s investigative team when she witnesses the murder of a local supermarket manager. Talk show host Leonard contacts Hallie and tells her the murder was a hit -- the result of unpaid gambling debts to loan sharks -- and he has the proof. Hallie runs with the story, even going so far as to indicate that the Mayor is involved in a cover-up but then it all goes pear shaped and it looks like Hallie will be stuck reporting only bake sales. To cheer herself up Hallie goes gambling in a casino over the border where she has had some success. This time her luck deserts her and she comes home dollars in debt and unable to pay her rent.

The untrustworthy Leonard is back in touch and tells her he really does have proof of who was behind the murder. Can she believe him? There’s one more death and a kidnapping for Hallie before she gets to the truth and her potential Pulitzer winning story.

This is a pleasant enough read which is tackling a big subject in the shape of gambling and government corruption however the pacing is slow to start with. There is also one of those dreadful clichés, where the owner of important information can’t possibly give the details over the phone and of course this signs their death warrant. Providence makes for an unusual setting and is well evoked but it is Hallie who is the disappointment, as someone who has kicked one addiction she really ought to be wise to the lure of gambling and it’s hard to have sympathy for the predicament she ends up in. This is the author’s second book, the first, FINAL COPY also features a reporter with addiction problems. It will be interesting to see what the author writes next.

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