In Troubled Water, the third book in John DeDakis’ Lark Chadwick mystery series, the young journalist is on her way to a new job as crime reporter for a Western Georgia daily, when, stopping off road for a bathroom break, she chances upon the body of a young girl who has been strangled. Even before she has had a chance to report to her new employer, Chadwick is in the middle of a big story, a story that gets even bigger when the body of a second young woman is found in the same place a few days later. Not only must Chadwick acquaint herself with her new job in a strange place, but she needs to take ownership of what may be the biggest story to hit the area in recent times.
As she pursues her investigation, suspects include a young black football player who had been dating the first victim, a handsome photographer who works at the paper, the father of the girl who may have been molesting her, a super market employee who has a history of sex offense, and the local journalist who Lark was replacing. And while the police seem convinced that the murders are the work of a single serial killer, there is no evidence that any of these suspects was even acquainted with both victims. Things get a bit more complicated when Lark discovers that one of her colleagues may be spreading rumors about her and the newspaper she has come to work for seems to be in financial trouble. Even before she has found herself a place to live, the new job seems highly precarious.
DeDakis, himself a journalist, delivers a riveting account of the reporter’s process, as Chadwick chases lead after lead, following her story. He writes with the authority of an insider who knows what he is talking about. He clarifies the somewhat ambivalent relationship between the press and the police. He demonstrates Chadwick’s ethical concern that she has become part of the story as she attempts to maintain her objectivity.
Troubled Water is a tightly wrought thriller that will keep you turning pages as it races to its conclusion. Lark Chadwick is a bright, forceful character who works at her job with serious intensity. She takes charge and refuses to be intimidated. A stranger in a strange land, she jumps right in and works like a native. She is clearly a character who can carry a series, I would expect her adventures have only begun, as she rises from the small town Wisconsin weekly where she had been working in her earlier tomes to bigger and better circumstances. Western Georgia, especially with the newspaper business being what it is nowadays, may well be only a temporary stop in her travels.