Archive for the ‘Liam Mulligan’ Category

Kate Waters, a reporter, needs a good story. In this online world, this seasoned reporter is relegated to editing other reporters’ stories. The laurels of her previous great story wore off years ago.


Angela Irving wants to know what happened to her newborn daughter. Leaving her in her crib in her hospital room after visiting hours and going off to shower, she returned to find the bassinet empty. That was 1975.

Emma Massingham????? is afraid the police will find out what she did and arrest her.

So, when a newborn baby’s bones are found under an urn on a concrete patio that is being demolished, everyone has an interest. Forensics determines that the bones are around 40 years old but the detritus around the body suggest it was buried 10 years later. Where could it have been for those 10 years?

The Child by Fiona Barton, author of The Widow (like those 2 word titles?) is a good read. It’s got an interesting premise. It’s populated with good, solid characters and it keeps the action flowing. Kate Waters also plays a role in The Widow and she’s a good character to build a series around. She’s the female equivalent of Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan, a reporter lamenting the fate of the newspaper industry, hard driving and undeterred.

If you want a good mystery that will keep you guessing, The Child is a good place to start.



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It’s tough when your competition are masters of the trade. Ed McBain and MurderDCMichael Connelly are the masters of police procedurals. Kathy Reichs is the master of forensic anthropology. The crown goes to Arnaldur Indridason for Icelandic mysteries and Thomas H. Cook for literary mysteries. And the head honcho for journalistic mysteries is Bruce DeSilva.

So, while Neely Tucker’s journalistic mysteries, which take place in Washington, D. C., are readable, they don’t live up to the bar set by Mr. DeSilva. In Murder, D. C. Billy Ellison, the son of a prominent Black family in Washington, is found washed up on the shore of the The Bend, the former site of slave trading and currently a run-down park used primarily for drug deals. Sully Carter, reporter for ‘the newspaper’, is the journalist on the scene. Initial interviews with Billy’s mother and her employer, the prominent lawyer, Sheldon Stevens, portray Billy as a boy who had everything. However, as Sully gathers more facts, they soon change their tune, stating Billy was gay and was dealing drugs in a big way. Private investigators hired by Stevens seem to be making as little progress as the police in solving Billy’s murder.

WaysOfTheDeadThose readers who met Sully in The Ways of the Dead, know he’s a likable character. He drinks a bit…well maybe a lot. He was reporting the war in Bosnia when he got wounded and has the scars and limp to prove it. He has a good working relationship with the police as well as one of the major drug dealers in the metropolitan area. And once he gets hold of something, he rarely, if ever, lets go. So, when things don’t make sense, Sully keeps plugging away, regardless of how many times he gets beaten up, suspended from work, etc.

However, Sully Carter doesn’t have the edge and cynicism of Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan. In addition, the turmoil that the news industry is going through is totally ignored. This is surprising in that Tucker is a journalist, a staff writer at the Washington Post.

The plot of Murder, D.C. is good. The characters are good. You’ll enjoy reading Murder, D.C. I just think you’ll enjoy the Bruce DeSilva/Liam Mulligan mysteries more.

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I became a Bruce deSilva fan from his first book, Rogue Island, and his ScourgeOfVipersfour 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.

BruceDesilvaUnfortunately, 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!)

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Here are my 5-star favorite mysteries of 2014.

LongWayHomeThe Long Way Home by Louise Penny – Armand Gamache, former chief inspector of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, is settling into retirement in the idyllic village of Three Pines—but Gamache understands better than most that danger never strays far from home. With the help of friends and chocolate croissants and the protection of the village’s massive pines, Gamache is healing. You might just mistake him and his wife, Reine-Marie, for an ordinary middle-age couple oblivious to the world’s horrors. But Gamache still grapples with a “sin-sick soul”—he can’t forget what lurks just beyond his shelter of trees. It’s his good friend Clara Morrow who breaks his fragile state of peace when she asks for help: Peter, Clara’s husband, is missing. After a year of separation, Peter was scheduled to return home; Clara needs to know why he didn’t.

DarknessDarknessDarkness., Darkness by John Harvey – Diamond Dagger Award–winner Harvey’s 12th and last Charlie Resnick novel. The destruction of an old apartment terrace in the Nottinghamshire village of Bledwell Vale, in England’s coal-mining country, reveals a human skeleton. Dental records identify the remains as those of Jenny Hardwick, missing since 1984. An outspoken advocate for the miners, Jenny was the wife of a scab, one of the men who crossed the picket lines to keep providing for their families. Det. Insp. Catherine Njoroge takes charge of the investigation, and recruits Res­nick who has been working as civilian investigator on cold cases, since he has first-hand experience of the divisive, violent miner’s strike of the mid-1980s.

CopTownCop Town by Karin Slaughter – Gender politics and race relations are front and center in this thriller. It’s 1974 Atlanta, and another policeman has been shot by the man they’re calling the Shooter, yet his partner, Jimmy Lawson, is left physically unharmed but devastated. Jimmy’s sister Maggie, also a cop, is convinced that something is off about Jimmy’s version of events, but getting anyone to listen to her suspicions would only prove futile. After all, women weren’t very welcome on the police force in 1974 and they certainly didn’t investigate serious crimes. When she’s partnered with Kate Murphy, whose pampered background couldn’t be more different from Maggie’s solid blue-collar roots, events begin to escalate, and Kate and Maggie must put everything on the line to stop a ferocious killer.

ProofPositiveProof Positive by Archer Mayor – When Beverly Hillstrom, Vermont’s chief medical examiner and girlfriend of Vermont Bureau of Investigation detective Joe Gunther, asks him to look into the death of her cousin, Ben, how can he refuse? Ben, a Vietnam War Signal Corps photographer and a hoarder, was found crushed to death under a pile from his collection. The cause of death was inconclusive, according to Beverly’s autopsy. When Ben’s estranged ex-wife is found tortured and murdered soon after, Joe’s senses are on high alert.

InvisibleCityInvisible City by Julia Dahl – Rebekah Roberts moved to New York City in the hope of covering important stories as a journalist, but she also wanted to be closer to the mother who abandoned her shortly after she was born to return to her Hasidic Jewish community. When Rebekah is tasked with reporting on the murder of a Hasidic woman, she begins to learn more about the community and how in some respects it exists as a sovereign state within the city. And the NYPD is happy to oblige the community’s customs, including not performing an autopsy on the victim, which might result in the murder remaining unsolved.

ProvidenceRagProvidence Rag by Bruce DeSilva – Inspired by a true story, Providence Rag finds Liam Mulligan, his pal Mason, and the newspaper they both work for at an ethical crossroad. The youngest serial killer in history butchered five of his neighbors before he was old enough to drive. When he was caught eighteen years ago, Rhode Island’s antiquated criminal statutes—never intended for someone like him—required that all juveniles, no matter their crimes, be released at age twenty-one. The killer is still behind bars, serving time for crimes supposedly committed on the inside. That these charges were fabricated is an open secret; but nearly everyone is fine with it—if the monster ever gets out more people will surely die. But Mason is not fine with it. If officials can get away with framing this killer they could do it to anybody

HollowGirlHollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman – In this ninth and final Moe Prager outing, Prager is still grieving the death of his fiancée, who was killed in a car accident for which he feels responsible. He’s awakened by his brother from a drunken sleep; Nancy Lustig, a woman he met 35 years earlier, wants to hire Moe to find her missing 30-year-old daughter, Sloane, who enjoyed brief notoriety a decade earlier as Internet sensation “Hollow Girl,” airing “real life performance art.” Although their relationship has always been tortured, mother and daughter spoke biweekly. Sloane has not called in a month, and when new, more graphically sadistic videos starring a seemingly comatose Sloane start appearing online, Moe gets that uneasy feeling in his “kishka” that something is amiss.

I’ve read a lot of good books this past year. I hope one of them appeals to you.


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WaysOfTheDeadSully Carter is a newspaper man. He’s covered wars throughout the world and been hit with shrapnel, which has left its traces on him. He now covers crime in Washington, D.C. When the body of Sarah Reese, daughter of a Superior Court judge (and potential nominee for Supreme Court Justice) David Reese, is found in a dumpster behind a convenience store in the bad part of town, police from multiple agencies, local and federal, start investigating. The fact that over the past two years, several girls in their 20s have gone missing or have been found murdered within a five block radius have not stirred the police to investigate because those girls were Black, took drugs and some performed sex for money.

Sully happens to be close to the local drug lord/all around thug, Sly, who is not happy that the police are snooping around his neighborhood. It’s not good for business. They agree to trade information in the hopes that the killer will be caught quickly and the police move on to other crimes and neighborhoods. Are they truly sharing information?

Unfortunately, there  is bad blood between Sully and Reese, which in the eyes of the editors, will cloud Sully’s judgment as he investigates. Additionally, Sully has been hitting the bottle lately.

Such is the plot summary for The Ways of the Dead, Neely Tucker’s debut novel. Tucker, as well as his character, are experienced journalists. Sully is a moderately endearing character but his relationship with Sly seems a bit out of character. While I realize that journalists may cultivate some unsavory relationships, for me this one didn’t work and I’m not sure why. The newspaper’s editors, as well, didn’t have that hard hitting edge one would expect of high level editors. I think part of this results from the fact that I’m a big fan of Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan series. That, too, is newspaper themed. I like the characters, the setting, the cynicism, the political asides. The Ways of the Dead pales in comparison with regard to these aspects of the book.

The Ways of the Dead is a reasonable read. You’ll definitely want to finish it. Whether or not I’ll jump at the chance to read Tucker’s next book remains to be seen.


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