Broken Window by Dorothy H. Hayes is set in NYC in the summer of 1984 — a time when the subway was not a safe place for travel, as evidenced by a missing NYU student (available March 3, 2015).
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It's the summer of 1984, and New York City is steaming in more ways than one. Local politicians are spending lots of time arguing in the media but doing relatively little to relieve the stress of mass-transit problems. New York needs its subways and busses to keep the city going, but they were like a tea kettle set to boil.
The subway was dangerous. But the three girls wouldn’t take no for an answer. Kelly Singleton was moving from her Connecticut home into her NYU dorm, and the subway was part of her new life, she told her concerned parents.
Jamie Ryan and Christina Moore were her two best friends and would be visiting Kelly whenever they could. They insisted that they needed to learn how to navigate mass transportation.
For all three of them, riding the subway was a rite of passage. That was their final plea.
The old, rusted trains they were so anxious to ride broke down regularly, leaving passengers to wait, sometimes forty minutes and longer, in dangerous circumstances, their parents argued. The Daily News and The New York Times frequently reported gang violence on the trains, which in the last ten years had become the symbol of the city’s rising crime rate.
If you have or have ever raised teenagers, you’ll recognize these girls immediately. They’re so sure they can master the world, they pay no attention to lessons their parents are still trying to teach. However, we all know teens have to cross that threshold into independence or they can’t survive. That doesn’t make it any easier for parents to let go.
Dorothy H. Hayes does a good job of conveying the teenagers’ sense of adventure during the ride and the parents’ fear when the unthinkable happens. It was just a trip to the city. There were hundreds of people around. Somebody should have seen a beautiful young girl when she exited the subway.
Because she is the local investigative reporter, Carol Rossi has achieved some notoriety. Readers met her in Hayes' first novel, Murder at the P&Z, where Rossi used her analytical skills to look into local politics at the Planning & Zoning Commission. She's an interesting and innovative amateur detective who is uncompromisingly dogged in her inquiries.
Having worked for a small-town weekly paper myself, I found Hayes’s portrayal of the reporter spot on. When you’re a part of a small community but need to report objectively, you’re often reluctant to share what you’ve found. Everything you write ripples through the town like a pebble thrown in water.
Newly married to Detective Jerry Stevenson of the Wilton Police Department, Rossi sometimes finds herself at odds with her husband. While she’s out to get the whole story, Jerry is concerned that she may be inserting herself where she shouldn’t be. The two are also adjusting to living as a couple and maintaining busy schedules. Add to that they live on a working farm that also has livestock and a small pack of rescued animals.
At Peaceable Kingdom, we remain among the very few who cling to Wilton’s agrarian past. The farm and the animals would brace us as we worked on this case. The light changed and the traffic soon grew thicker as I crossed the boundary to Norwalk, Wilton’s colonial sister.
I yawned. Thanks to the farm, lately I know new levels of exhaustion. Monday, we harvested berries and carrots after doing a general cleanup during the weekend. Waiting in the wings were the cornfield and apple trees.
My ugly fingernails bore witness to the harvest, cracked, broken, and unpolished. I grabbed a nail file from the glove compartment to work on them at another traffic light. It took a couple of lights, but at least my nails were a unified mess by the time I reached the parking lot of the Norwalk Daily News.
Rossi is drawn into the missing-girl investigation by Kelly's parents, who want her help due to her notoriety from her last big story. Taking on the assignment puts her in a precarious position with her husband, but Rossi is compelled to do what she can. After all, there’s always the possibility that Kelly can be rescued. Jerry keeps reminding her of jurisdictional issues while Rossi sees everything in terms of the victim.
My own reporting was limited to feature stories. I knew right away I was not cut out for hard news. I think it became clear to me when my associate and I argued who would take pictures if the car wreck we were headed to had blood on scene. Knowing there could be sad outcome to a heavy news story kept me doing lifestyle pieces.
Rossi, on the other hand, is intent on preventing the unpleasant outcome. She’s taking daily trips to the city, digging into the details of recent murders, and going to talk to witnesses personally.
I enjoyed the way Hayes slowly built the tension, but kept the action moving in the story. At times, I found myself holding my breath for fear of what I would read next. A missing person story is always spine tingling because there are so many ways it could end.
Take a ride through the city that was New York more than twenty years ago. Feel the sticky heat of summer and the inescapable tension created by reading about someone who has no control over their own fate.
As bad as driving in New York City traffic is, this book could make you think twice about taking the subway.
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Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Broken Window by Dorothy H. Hayes! To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below. TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In! Broken Window Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2015/02/fresh-meat-broken-window-by-dorothy-h-hayes-sweepstakes-leigh-neely beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) February 26, 2015. Sweepstakes ends 1:59 p.m. ET March 5, 2015. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
Leigh Neely is a former journalist and editor who now writes fiction and articles for regional magazines. She and her writing partner, Jan Powell, are the authors of Second Nature by Neely Powell, and the trilogy, “The Witches of New Mourne.” She also writes for the popular blog, WomenofMystery.net. Her short stories are in the anthologies, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices and Murder New York Style: Family Matters, put out by the New York/Tri-State Sisters in Crime.
Read all of Leigh Neely's posts for Criminal Element.