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Crime and Law Enforcement

BookMark: In 'Wrong Kind Of Paper' By Cynthia Simmons A Young Journalist Uncovers Dangerous Secrets


From the very first sentence of Cynthia Simmons’ debut novel, “Wrong Kind of Paper,” we are alerted something serious is going to happen before the book is finished. And in just a few chapters we find out more of the nail-biting details than we ever could have imagined. 

“Wrong Kind of Paper” tells the story of Hallie Linden, a recent graduate of a prestigious liberal arts college journalism program who ends up working at a newspaper in a small town in Indiana. It’s certainly not her first choice of jobs, but it’s the only interview she scores from her 100 applications. 

The year is 1989, and small papers are being acquired by larger groups. Hallie has massive student loan debt, and her parents have gone off to join the Peace Corps, leaving her to her own devices. Her options are limited, to say the least. Nonetheless, early in her tenure at the paper she sets her sights on the Silverton Award, a fictitious Indiana award for journalism. This in a town where people continually point out to her that “nothing ever happens.”

It turns out, though, this is far from the case. Before long Hallie begins to notice irregularities in procedures and lapses in communication at the local police department. Although it’s unclear whether she’s driven more by doing the right thing or by her desire to win the coveted award, she sets out on a path to unravel what exactly has been going on in this small, ostensibly sleepy Midwestern town. Simmons’ own background in journalism shines through here as the reader follows Hallie through the convoluted interview and investigation process.

Simmons definitely has a way with words that both engages the reader and provides depth and dimension to the characters and plot. If you’ve heard anything at all about this book you’ve heard about Blue, the “hot fireman.” When Hallie encounters Blue early in the book, here is what she has to say. “He was so close I could smell the cayenne pepper on him, the onions and garlic. I craved that chili. I had to remind myself it was probably full of meat.” Hallie, of course, is a vegetarian.

In my reading experience, many promising books fall apart because the quality of the ending doesn’t measure up to the rest of the book. Simmons gets high marks for her skill in wrapping up her story. Actually, she gives us two very satisfying endings, first one that ties up all the loose ends and next an epilogue that not only explores a side story but also has us wondering what might happen next.

I’m a huge fan of detective mysteries – Guido Brunetti and Ruth Galloway to name a few. I would recommend “Wrong Kind of Paper” to anyone with similar tastes, but also to any reader who would enjoy a well-told, well-crafted page turner with rich characters and plot. I certainly hope there’s a sequel on the horizon.

“Wrong Kind of Paper” came out in July. Author Cynthia Simmons teaches journalism at Penn State.  

Reviewer Helen Dempsey lives in State College. She’s been a member of the No Name Book Group for 25 years and participates in the State of the Story storytelling event.

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