Author nails newsroom culture in ‘The Echo Killing’

This cover image released by St. Martin's Press shows "The Echo Killing," by Christi Daugherty. (St. Martin's Press via AP)

“The Echo Killing” (Minotaur Books), by Christi Daugherty

Young adult author Christi Daugherty’s debut as a writer of adult mysteries launches a series about a Savannah, Georgia, crime reporter haunted by her mother’s unsolved murder that shows great promise.

When she was 12, Harper McClain discovered her mother’s body when she came home from school. That was 15 years ago, and not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about her mother and that day. She could “walk through every second of the day her mother died any time she wished.” Those memories become even stronger when Harper covers the murder of single mother Marie Whitney and spots too many similarities to her mother’s demise. Harper especially feels a connection to the woman’s 12-year-old daughter Camille, who, like her, discovered her mother dead on the kitchen floor.

As Harper covers Marie’s murder, she also uses her reporter skills to look into her mother’s unsolved death, which few of her friends or co-workers know about.

A former crime reporter, Daugherty delivers an insider’s view of journalism, from the adrenaline rush of covering a major story to the drudgery of delving into the background behind a story. She also nails the newsroom culture, from the humorous banter to the serious work, and shows how layoffs and cutbacks have affected the way journalists cover their community.

“The Echo Killing” shows that Harper has the potential to head a series. Harper knows she can trace her career and her interest in crime to the day her mother died. And that sometimes makes her reckless, taking needless chances that put her life at risk.

That brashness also causes her to damage friendships and alliances, and may ruin her career. Harper’s obsession is understandable but gets wearisome, especially when she breaks rules and ethics of journalism that should get her fired. But Daugherty also wisely allows her character to have a love life and a full life with loyal friends.

Daugherty’s affection for Savannah with its “verdant town squares,” antebellum architecture and its ongoing gentrification of old buildings further elevates “The Echo Killing.”

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