Roger Smithback is an assignment reporter for the Miami Herald. He is the younger brother of the late Bill Smithback.
Smithback grew up in a Boston suburb along with his twin brother, Bill. Their father, William Smithback, Sr., preceded both of his sons into newspaper journalism, eventually taking over the Beverly Evening Transcript. He also has a half-sister.
Tall and lanky like his brother, Roger Smithback's personal style tends toward hipster culture, replete with Hawaiian shirts, skinny jeans, porkpie hats, and vintage sneakers. He is a fan of Marvel comics, microbreweries, and classical music.
Smithback began working for the Miami Herald as a researcher six years prior to the events of Verses for the Dead. He eventually worked his way up the ranks to become an assignment reporter.
The Brokenhearts MurdersWhen a killer calling themselves "Mister Brokenhearts" claimed their second victim while the Herald's usual homicide reporters were on vacation, Smithback took the opportunity to dive into investigative reporting, and quickly encountered a familiar face: his brother's old FBI agent friend, Aloysius Pendergast. Concluding the Bureau's presence meant serial murder, Smithback used his knowledge of their involvement to coax the killer's nickname—previously withheld from the public—from a contact with the Miami police. His subsequent article on the murders prompted a letter to Smithback from Mister Brokenhearts himself.
Despite his own misgivings about not being an investigative reporter, Smithback continued to dig into the case, ultimately finding a link between two of the cold-case suicide victims: they had both been treated by the same psychiatrist prior to their deaths. A visit to the psychiatric office confirmed only that the doctor had retired, and a follow-up trip to the doctor's home resulted in a physical confrontation that cost Smithback one of his precious hipster sneakers.
Smithback continued to cover the story until Mister Brokenhearts was captured by Pendergast and his partner, though he sensed there were several details left out of the official statement. A surprise visit from Pendergast, done as a favor to Bill's memory, helped Smithback fill in the gaps.