As the Tribune's journalists try to solve the case before the police, the two groups quickly evolve into distrustful, suspicious camps. For the police, they see no reason to allow byline-hungry reporters to get in the way of their investigation; the reporters, of course, regard the police as obstructionist. Wilcox steps into the midst of this situation; spearheading the Tribune's investigation, he tries to use his own brother, recently released from a mental institution for killing a young woman, as the basis for a fictional serial killer. But when a reporter starts to manufacture the news, how long before it becomes difficult to differentiate fact from fiction?
Wilcox finds himself risking is career, his marriage, and even the life of his own daughter, a beautiful rising star in TV news, in his personal bid for vindication and journalistic glory. And much like Wilder's cinematic protagonist, a great many people may be hurt by Wilcox's bid to have the story serve his interests, rather than simply report upon what exists.
While some of the novel's plot twists are not the most believable, Truman offers a good portrait of a middle-aged man trying to recapture his former glory. Wilcox struggles to grasp at that which is just beyond reach, and in the process finds his life spiraling rapidly out of his control. Ultimately, the story here is not in the murder mystery itself, as the novel is something of a mirror image of Ace in the Hole - a cautionary tale in which the news is that reporters often discard notions of journalistic integrity in the pursuit of personal glory and ambition. In that regard, at least, it rings true.
Author's Note: This article was originally posted at Wallo World.