Review

Black & White and Dead All Over

by John Darnton

"It was a lifeless body, and not just any body. It was
Ratnoff."

When Ratnoff's secretary, Ellen Butterby, discovers his body in the
New York Globe's newsroom, the newspaper's future is
thrown into chaos. Senior editors grapple with the fact that one of
their own has been brutally murdered in their hallowed workplace.
An editor's spike, a symbol used to kill stories in old-time
publishing days, has been driven into Ratnoff's chest. Affixed to
the spike is a note, written in purple ink, Ratnoff's trademark
color. It says, "Nice. Who?" --- Ratnoff's tell-tale query as to
the authorship of a story.

Executive Editor Skeeter Diamond, publisher Elisha Hagenbuckle and
Metro Editor Bernie Grabble confer and assign investigative
reporter Jude Hurley to cover the story. Known as a loose cannon,
Hurley is a digger who will find out what happened. A 35-year-old
with a passion for his job, Hurley finds himself deep in scandal,
hearsay and ambitious backstabbing at the Globe. He is a
suspect and forced to work with a female detective assigned to the
case. In addition, a second murder complicates the scene. Ratnoff's
paramour, gossip columnist Peregrin Whibbleby, is discovered dead
near the lobby stairs. A newspaper bundling machine has encased
Whibbleby's body in the form of a statue holding a copy of the
National Enquirer, resembling a wire mummy.

Hurley's rollercoaster investigation teams him with detective
Priscilla Bollingsworth to solve the crimes. Newsmen become
paranoid, publishers and editors seek answers without success, and
Hurley second-guesses the loyalty of those he deemed friends. An
intriguing subplot reveals ugly truths about the Globe's
Greek founder, Hagenbuckle's father-in-law. While Hurley bull-dogs
the facts closer to solving the hideous crimes, his personal life
dives into a shambles. When his love interest, Rachel, seeks a more
stable lifestyle, his job intensifies. Increasing hours spent with
Bollingsworth is not unpleasant.

John Darnton's skill as a reporter and editor is evident in BLACK
& WHITE AND DEAD ALL OVER. The newspaper jargon he writes hails
from his experience. An avid journalist can learn tidbits from the
publishing world's past. Darnton exploits methods long out of use
to deploy his intricate plot, and the devices used for murder are
deliciously utilized in graphic detail.

Darnton names his characters with style as well. Pronunciation
whets the tongue with the bizarre handles he uses. Ellen Butterby,
Peregrin Whibbleby, Elisha Hagenbuckle, Skeeter Diamond, Jude
Hurley, Outsalot, Hickory Bosch --- monikers with eclectic flavor
--- make for a humorous read. The comic witticisms interspersed
throughout the novel give testimony to his sense of humor.

The death notes, written to taunt and reveal motive, cleverly
insert poetic justice into the story. The diabolical methods of
torture before death expose a twisted but ingenious
personality.

BLACK & WHITE AND DEAD ALL OVER brims with metaphors and
similes to satisfy readers of intellect and the urbane. Phrases
like "dangling a steak bone two feet beyond a dog's leash,"
"computer complied like an Arabian horse responding…" and
"murder unleashed a tsunami inside the Globe" engage the
reader with appreciation for Darnton's style.

Both the main plot and subplot intrigue and command one's interest
throughout. In today's digital world, the mechanics of outdated
publishing methods read like a history of the profession. Darnton's
knowledge of the newspaper business spices his story in a
compelling new issue.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 7, 2011

Black & White and Dead All Over
by John Darnton

  • Publication Date: August 11, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0307387429
  • ISBN-13: 9780307387424