I became a Bruce deSilva fan from his first book, Rogue Island, and his four book Liam Mulligan series hasn’t let me down. Fans of Mulligan will know that he is long-time friends with Fiona McNerney, a former nun who now is the governor of Rhode Island. Despite her former vows, she and Mulligan share a repartee filled with sexual innuendo, primarily about his underwear.
In his latest foray, Scourge of the Vipers, Mulligan is working for a new boss, Charles Twisdale, since The Dispatch has been sold. The new corporate owner cares less about the news and more about the bottom line, thus the staff has been dramatically cut. His respect or lack thereof for Twisdale, who he calls Chuckie, and the new owners, is evident.
Rhode Island is facing a budget deficit and in order to shore up the state’s finances McNerney (aka Attila the Nun) is proposing to legalize sports betting and have it run by the state’s Lottery Commission. The mob’s not keen on the idea since it will eat into its bookmaking business. The sports oversight groups such as the NCAA oppose the plan saying it will open up games to dishonesty. Private gambling businesses seeing a potential windfall, would rather betting be privatized so they, rather than the state, reap the benefits.
When Atlantic City mobsters start appearing in Providence with bag loads of cash, presumably to buy off legislators, the veteran newspaper reporter starts to investigate. When dead bodies start appearing, Mulligan soon becomes a prime suspect in several murders.
Two subplots include a local pro basketball team auditioning walkons to fill some slots. Mulligan, a fairly decent player, is asked to try out by Twisdale and report on it for the paper. Also, Whoosh Morelli, an old friend and bookmaker, is planning on retiring and suggests Mulligan consider taking over the business.
As usual, Mulligan bemoans the fate of newspaper journalism specifically and the democratic process in general. As an illustration, Mulligan’s innuendo driven conversation with Fiona, whose office has been bugged, is illegally recorded and, snippets taken out of context issued to the media by a misguided Super PAC officer. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and whoever has the money rules.
Unfortunately, some of the characters we’ve come to know and love only make brief appearances in Scourge of the Vipers. Mason, the son of the newspaper’s former owner, has started his own internet newspaper. Mulligan’s photographer colleague has gone elsewhere. However, that doesn’t detract from the total enjoyment of the book.
I like books that have a good balance of romance, action, snappy repartee and social commentary, and the Liam Mulligan series fits that bill.
(And tell me that DeSilva doesn’t look just like a mystery writer!)