FRONT PAGE TEASER, by Rosemary Herbert, Down East Books, Camden, Maine, 2010, paperback, $14.95, 256 pages.
In her first novel, Rockland author Herbert takes readers back to a seminal time in America’s history.
At first glance, “Front Page Teaser” seems to be a mystery about the disappearance of a suburban Boston housewife.
But Herbert draws on her experience as a newspaper feature writer, an editor and a librarian to make it much more than that. It’s partially an indictment of how different media handle news. Also, it’s a portrait of a country in shock just after the events of Sept. 11.
At the center of “Front Page Teaser” is Liz Higgins. Liz is a feature writer who yearns to be a hard-news writer with articles on the front page.
While covering another lightweight holiday event, Liz stumbles onto a crime scene: the bloodied kitchen of the missing woman named Ellen Johansson. She promises the woman’s young daughter Veronica that she will find her missing mother.
In a months-long quest that takes her around the world, Liz digs into Ellen’s past, both recent and further back, and comes up with a lot of clues that still don’t add up to finding her. For instance, what do a missing Arab cabbie in New York City and Ellen’s longtime Arab pen-pal have to do with her disappearance, if anything? Along the way, Ellen grows as a reporter in the eyes of her editors, while falling for two very different men.
Front Page Teaser is the novel that Herbert has wanted to write since childhood, and it’s clear from this mystery that she has done her homework through the years. There’s a net full of red herrings here that will keep readers guessing up until the end. It’s fitting that novelist Herbert finally made it to press.
Rosemary Herbert will hold an author talk and book signing at 6-7:30 p.m. Sept. 23, at The Owl & Turtle Book Shop, 32 Washington St., in Camden.