By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer
"A Little Trouble With the Facts" (Harper Paperbacks, 288 pages, $13.95), by Nina Siegal: Maybe you've read your fill of novels with a plot like this: A naive young woman moves to Manhattan, gets into big-time publishing, faces professional crises, falls in love and, in general, ends up transformed.
True? Make room for one more.
"A Little Trouble With the Facts" is an absorbing tale that follows that path and throws in a murder as well.
We meet Valerie Vane, who by the time the book begins has already attained and lost a job as a hotshot style reporter at a major New York newspaper. After embarrassing her employer in a public incident at a nightclub, she was demoted to writing obituaries.
And that's where she takes the phone call that sets the story in motion. She'd written a brief obituary that said a graffiti artist killed himself by jumping from a bridge. Not so, insists her mysterious male caller, who promises to help her find the truth.
Some 250 pages later she does find the truth, but the best part is her journey along the way. In this debut novel, Siegal is a delightful writer.
She tells of tabloid newspapers illustrating a sensational story with "enough file photos to crush a librarian." And you can't help but admire a sentence like this, as Vane describes being goaded by her mysterious caller: "His words poked me in the chest like a frat boy looking for a brawl."
Siegal's newspaper experience serves her well in descriptions of Vane's newsroom, colleagues and journalistic world. Here's Vane describing her top-dog status as a style reporter: "I had identified gray as the new black and Thursday as the new Friday. And later, when the trends shifted again, I was the one who'd let everyone know that Monday was the new Thursday."
Truth to tell, Siegal occasionally gets a little out of hand in the flashiness of her writing. That's when the reader is left to think that he'd probably get a real kick out of her turn of a phrase if only he could understand what it means.
But that's a minor problem in a fun book. Siegal is working on a second novel, and I look forward to it.