Thursday, April 09, 2015

A Scourge of Vipers by Bruce DeSilva

I'm a fan of crime novels featuring investigative journalists, whether the reporter is Bruce DeSilva's Liam Mulligan, Brad Parks' Carter Ross, Bryan Gruley's Gus Carpenter or Hank Phillippi Ryan's Jane Ryland. They're determined people, perfect sleuths, working hard to present the truth to the public. They dig for answers, putting themselves in danger, but determined to find those answers. Unfortunately, investigative reporters are a dying breed as newspapers and media change. That's evident in Bruce DeSilva's guest post earlier this week. And, it's evident in his latest brutally honest novel, A Scourge of Vipers.

Even Mulligan's friends can see the end of the newspaper business. He's offered jobs as a bookie, a private detective, and a reporter with an online news service. But, he's not quite ready to give up on The Providence Dispatch where he's been an investigative reporter for years. And, then Governor Fiona McNerney, a former nun in her second term as governor, has "a foolproof plan to solve the state's budget crisis". Mulligan's former high school classmate, known as "Attila the Nun" wants the legislature to legalize sports betting and have the State Lottery Commission run it. Mulligan's in with the governor may get him a story, and then the mob, the gambling interests, and sports interests with a lot of money descend on the city,  The mob, corrupt politicians, gambling, bribery. It would be a heck of a story, but with the newspaper only interested in the bottom line, Mulligan starts taking sick days to investigate with only an unemployed bouncer as an occasional back-up. He's soon a target. And even the police have their eyes on him when a legislator turns up dead. And, no one except Mulligan seems seriously interested in the truth.

When a journalist such as DeSilva, Parks, Gruley or Ryan writes a crime novel, there's a feeling of ripped from the headlines. They bring a flair to their writing, a feeling that it really could happen. DeSilva won the Edgar for his first Mulligan novel, Rogue Island, and the others have won numerous awards as well. DeSilva brings politics and the newspaper world to life, in all its grit, grime and the faded glory of accurate investigative reporting. A Scourge of Vipers is a compelling story that can be read without having read previous books in the series. There's a little romance, that wonderful black humor journalists and cops share, and a fascinating story.

And, after you read A Scourge of Vipers, go back and read Bruce DeSilva's guest post. And, then think about one of his paragraphs in the novel, one that sums up what we're losing with the demise of the newspaper business. "Tens of millions of Americans, so buried in bullshit that they were no longer able to distinguish fact from fiction, had lost the capacity for rational debate. They shrieked insults across a widening chasm, treated political opponents as mortal enemies, and thought compromise was synonymous with treason. I couldn't see a way out of the mess. Newspapers were dying, and nothing was on the horizon to replace as honest brokers of information."

It's no wonder journalists such as Bruce DeSilva, Brad Parks, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Bryan Gruley have turned to crime.

Bruce DeSilva's website is

A Scourge of Vipers by Bruce DeSilva. Forge. 2015. ISBN 9780765374318 (hardcover), 315p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Brenda Buchanan said...

I'm excited that a new Mulligan novel is out from Bruce DeSilva. I feel as he does about the essential nature of local journalism, and what we are losing by starving newspapers for resources at a time when the important work of the Fourth Estate is needed more than ever.

And he is such a terrific writer.


Lesa said...

He is, Brenda. And, you're going to enjoy Mulligan's actions in this one. Another terrific book from him.