Providence Rag by Bruce DeSilva (Liam Mulligan #3) – Hot Off the Press


Rag Cover 2DeSilva Hits a Homerun with this Taunt and Thrilling Tale – 5  Stars 

Thank you God.  2014 has been a rough year for the written word.   While having listened to many great audiobooks this year, I have not read much worth celebrating.  Thankfully, Bruce DeSilva comes through and helps me break the slump.  If you haven’t yet discovered this author, I suggest you go and pick up his Edgar winning and first Liam Mulligan novel Rogue Island.  Once you are sufficiently hooked, you will undoubtedly pick up Cliff Walk and his most recent, Providence Rag. DeSilva writes gritty crime thrillers with Liam Mulligan, a cigar smoking, liquor drinking, ulcer fighting investigative reporter.  Each of his novels deal with crimes that feel as if they could have been ripped from the headlines as the characters set out to expose crime and fraud.  Providence Rag, which was released March 11, 2014, was in fact pulled from the headlines during the author first career.  For an excellent background on the real murder behind the story, read the authors own words on the experience here.

Plot summary

The story begins with a series of flashbacks covering several timelines.  The reader follows both the mind and musings of a disturbed serial murderer while following our protagonist, Liam Mulligan, and the case that changed him from a sports reporter to an investigative journalist.  We follow a brief investigation in the brutal slayings and the apprehension of the criminal.  The killer is quite young and the law of the state requires that the worst serial killer in Rhode Island history be released at the age of 21.  Flash-forward to the present.  The killer is has passed his 21 birthday but as a result of multiple charges while in prison, he remains incarcerated.  At the Providence Dispatch, the fledgling newspaper of protagonist Liam Mulligan, fellow reporter and son of the publisher, believes that the convicted killer is still in jail as a result.  Liam is faced with a moral dilemma.  The State and citizens of Rhode Island do not care if the killer is being wrong held.  If in fact the authorities have conspired to keep him behind bars, should a person who is likely to kill, be put back on the streets.  The interesting moral questions sets the table for an excellent thrill ride.

The Good

Keeping it Fresh

The first two novels in the series where atmospheric/noir with the hard nosed journalist investigating crime and exposing corruption.  At the outset of this novel, the reader is brought back in time.  In the first 75 pages, the story reads as a prequel, both setting up the story to come but also developing Liam Mulligan by exploring his past.   In the first two novels, DeSilva deals with arson and child pornography respectively while this time around the author covers a form of corruption that can easily be justified.  The reader is left asking if the ends sometimes do justify the means.  Is it better to allow crime go unexposed or expose the corruption and put the lives of innocent people in jeopardy.  The idea is explored in a unique and interesting manner with two storylines/investigative reporter working at cross purposes.  The flashbacks and the present day investigations culminate in an expected but nonetheless chilling confrontation.

The Bad

Done Already?

If I had to say anything negative about this story is that it ended too quickly.  It builds to a final confrontation and seems to end as soon as it started.  The author indicates that this is the first of his story to be based on real events.  Unfortunately, the author does not provide the fact and the fiction at the end of the story.  It is not clear which portions occurred and which portions did not.  With the “based on true events” label, I believe it is important to provide the reader with some biographical information at the end of the story.  If this information is also important to you, I suggest you read the author blog post that is linked in the introduction.

Final Thoughts 

In this novel, the author adds psychological thriller elements to his novel which is a welcome addition to the storytelling.  While I cannot fault the first two novels in this Edgar award winning series, this third novel is easily the best and will hopefully gain more attention for this excellent series.  If you are tired of crime thrillers that focus only on the murder and the hunt for serial killers or you want to explore other equally compelling crime investigations, its time to pick up and read a Bruce DeSilva novel.

Content Advisories

It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested.  I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.

Scale 1 – Lowest     5 – Highest

Sex 3.5

There was some minor sexual tension between characters.  There was a non graphic description of a sexual experience between two characters.  The novel focused largely on the historical murders of several woman and children.  While exploring the murders and developing the antagonist, there are descriptions of how he obtained sexual gratification through violence.  This content will disturb some readers. There is a scene in which a character is a “peeping tom” and is watching a naked women through her window. If you have read the previous novel, this content is less disturbing and less disturbing that many of the recent novels dealing with dark subject matters.

Language 3.5

There is moderate use of mild obscenities and low to moderate use of the f-word.  Generally, the adult language was confined to a few scenes with specific characters and is not pervasive.

Violence 4

The story focuses on a series of brutal murders.  The victims are subjected to a significant amount of violence.  The reader experiences the crimes through the eyes of the killer as well as viewing the aftermath through the eyes of the investigators and the protagonist.  It is the violent nature of the crimes and the continual referral back to the crime that garners this specific violence rating.

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Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.