Sharing Books and Authors, with an emphasis on Mysteries.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
I don't know when I've seen an Advanced Readers' Copy of a book that had so many blurbs. Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben and Ken Bruen are just a few of the authors who commented on Bruce DeSilva's debut crime novel, Rogue Island. And, the author's note says Evan Hunter (Ed McBain) is the one who encouraged him to expand a story into a novel. Sometimes too much acclaim is as bad as too much criticism. Does the novel deserve all the praise? In this case, the answer is yes.
DeSilva, who was a journalist in Providence, Rhode Island, introduces Mulligan, a journalist who grew up in Providence. Mulligan understands the history of the state, the intermingling of mob, politics, and graft. Even though he's an investigative reporter, he also works the system, bribing his way to faster results for a medical test, placing bets with a local bookie. He understands how police buy their promotions. Providence is home, with all its flaws.
So, when Mulligan's childhood neighborhood starts to burn down, he takes it personally. Night after night the fire department is called to houses in Mount Hope. Mulligan's old friend, Battalion Chief Rosella Morelli, knows how many homes burned, and how many people died. Since the arson investigators are incompetent, Mulligan starts poking around on his own.
Bruce DeSilva has written a complex novel that tells the story of one reporter's investigation, while also pointing out how newspapers are struggling to stay in business. It's hard to believe this is DeSilva's first novel, since he gives us realistic characters fighting losing battles. Mulligan is just one man dealing with the destruction of his childhood neighborhood, corruption and graft, major changes in the profession he loves, and loss.
Mulligan is an ordinary man, dealing with heartbreaking loss. As Mount Hope burns, and the newspaper world crumbles, he and other reporters handle it with black humor. There's a wonderful chapter in which the journalists poke fun at their own biggest mistakes. At the same time, this is one of the saddest crime novels I've read. It's hard to watch the destruction of a neighborhood, the loss of life, and Mulligan's life. But, he's a courageous man, and I'll be waiting for his return in the sequel to this outstanding debut, Rogue Island.