As the Wicked Watch is journalist Tamron Hall’s debut novel but you would never know it. Billed as the first in a new crime series featuring news reporter Jordan Manning, a young black female reporter who works for a Chicago TV station and is the reliable narrator of this novel. I am sure Tamron used her own background as a reporter in Chicago and then NY to write this story and it shows. As the reader, I felt like I was living vicariously through her early years as an investigative reporter and how it affected all aspects of her life.
We meet Jordan as she is investigating the disappearance of a young black girl, 16, who has disappeared in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. The girl, Masey James, is a straight-A student who loves her family and is very active in her church. Jordan has done what all journalists shouldn’t do and has formed a close bond with Masey’s mother, Pamela. As she begins to use her investigative tools to find out what happened to Masey, a body is found and the mystery becomes who was Masey James and why was she brutally and shockingly murdered?
While the book’s focus is primarily the murder, As the Wicked Watch is also a tutorial on racism and sexism in the journalistic world. Also, it focuses on the bias in black communities and how systemic racism affects the actions of both Policemen and journalists. Even Jordan, a black reporter, feels biased when a car driven by a black man follows her home and into her parking garage. She also recognizes that the color of her skin affects how she may be welcomed into a black community, whereas other reporters may seem suspicious.
There are some parts of Tamron Hall’s novel that may seem cumbrous. For example, her relationship with a photographer that seems to be off and on, however not explained why. Also, her friends with benefits with a gym trainer that she seems to not want to take further but welcomes his presence frequently throughout the book. But more confusing is the actual murder of Masey James. While her character has many facets beside the loving and deeply religious high schooler, we are not told “why” she was killed. There are hints towards it at the end but the reader is left wondering not who but why? As the Wicked Watch can be described as “unputdownable.” Though after putting it down, I still wanted more!