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Black and White and Dead All Over by John Darnton *** (of 5)

nytA despised editor of a very thinly disguised New York Times is found spread-eagled and more than dead in the basement of the paper’s headquarters.  An editor’s spike is hammered into his chest with a taunting note appended.  An investigative journalist from the paper’s staff is handed the story and an upstart female officer of the NYPD is assigned the case.  More murders, lots of clues, red herrings, and way too many characters to keep track of populate the mystery.  The author, a Times reporter, feels compelled to include every editor, publisher, writer, columnist, and assistant who works at a paper so you learn a lot about how the news is assembled.  Moreover, the timing of the story in the late 2000s when print media was under deep threat from the Internet, bloggers, bundlers, and tweeters is an interesting reminder of how much has changed in the delivery of the news.  It is a case of wrenching the Old Gray Lady into the new century.  There are some very funny bits about stories that find their way into the news to sell papers — styles of the young and hipsterish, gossip, cooking videos — and neither gore, nor action prevail.  Best if read as a period piece about the nature and value of traditional news reporting.