Archive for the ‘Neely Tucker’ Category

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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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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