Rogue Island (Liam Mulligan Series #1)

Rogue Island (Liam Mulligan Series #1)

4.3 24
by Bruce DeSilva, Jeff Woodman

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Winner of the 2011 Edgar Award for Best First Novel

Liam Mulligan is as old school as a newspaper man gets. His beat is Providence, Rhode Island, and he knows every street and alley. He knows the priests and prostitutes, the cops and street thugs. He knows the mobsters and politicians—who are pretty much one and the same.

Someone is systematically

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Winner of the 2011 Edgar Award for Best First Novel

Liam Mulligan is as old school as a newspaper man gets. His beat is Providence, Rhode Island, and he knows every street and alley. He knows the priests and prostitutes, the cops and street thugs. He knows the mobsters and politicians—who are pretty much one and the same.

Someone is systematically burning down the neighborhood Mulligan grew up in, people he knows and loves are perishing in the flames, and the public is on the verge of panic. With the whole city of Providence on his back, Mulligan must weed through a wildly colorful array of characters to find the truth.

Editorial Reviews

Patrick Anderson
DeSilva has 40 years of newspapering behind him, mostly with the Associated Press, and his first novel is as good and true a look at the news game as you'll find this side of The Front Page. Old newspapermen—we are legion—will delight in the book, as should anyone who appreciates a well-written, funny, sad, suspenseful look at this bewildering world we live in.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The serial torching of Mount Hope, a deteriorating Providence, R.I., neighborhood, sparks an investigative reporter's mission to smoke out the firebug in DeSilva's promising debut. Journalist Liam Mulligan, a Mount Hope native, smells arson in the ashes of tenement fires that have claimed the lives of several friends. The deeper he digs into suspicious circumstances surrounding the blazes, though, the more resistance he meets from police, politicians, landlords, and lawyers. Soon, Mulligan himself is fingered for the fires by the same sleazy authorities he's investigating. Smart-ass Mulligan is a masterpiece of irreverence and street savvy, and DeSilva does a fine job of evoking the seamy side of his beat through the strippers, barkeeps, bookies, and hoodlums who are his confidantes and companions. They all contribute to the well-wrought noirish atmosphere that supports this crime novel's dark denouement. A twist in the tale will keep readers turning the pages until the bitter end. (Oct.)
Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly Audio
DeSilva's lengthy career as a reporter for the Providence (R.I.) Journal has provided him with the writing skill and the in-depth knowledge of city room and cityscape so well displayed in this strong debut crime novel. It's also allowed him to create a totally believable protagonist in Liam Mulligan, a beleaguered journalist seeing his old neighborhood being destroyed by arson and his newspaper by reader disaffection. Mulligan's first-person narration is filled with emotion, not the least of which is his love-hate relationship with his city and state. And there are suspenseful moments of high tension. Too bad reader Boehmer has opted for a bland, even-tempered, almost bedtime-story approach, emphasizing key words without putting much feeling behind them. The only times he lets himself go is in delineating phone calls from Mulligan's shrewish ex-wife. Perversely, she's the novel's one character in need of underplaying. A Forge hardcover. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"Impressive.... DeSilva has created wonderfully quirky characters, a tangled plot, and a likable, sarcastic protagonist." ---Library Journal Starred Review
New York Times bestselling author of The Given Day Dennis Lehane

A tense, terrific thriller and a remarkably assured debut from Bruce DeSilva, an author to watch.
New York Times bestselling author of Long Lost Harlan Coben

In this vivid landscape peopled by colorful mobsters, brutal cops, and sleazy politicians, a droll hero named Mulligan fights long odds to find a measure of justice. Rogue Island is a stunning debut in the noir tradition.
New York Times bestselling author of the Harry Bos Michael Connelly

Writing with genuine authority, a dose of cynical humor, and a squinting eye on the world, Bruce DeSilva delivers a newspaper story that ranks with the best of them.
New York Times bestselling author of Paranoia Joseph Finder

With Rogue Island, Bruce DeSilva accomplishes something remarkable: He takes everything we love about the classic hard-boiled detective novel and turns it into a story that's fresh, contemporary, yet timeless. By turns gripping, funny, and touching, it's a tale filled with characters so vivid they jump off the page.
Edgar Award–winning author of Hell's Bay James W. Hall

Not since Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War have I read a first novel as compelling and sure-handed as Rogue Island. Investigative reporter Liam Mulligan has the gritty, tough-talking charm, the old-school street smarts, and sexy chivalry of a Marlowe or Spade.
New York Times bestselling author of the Serge Sto Tim Dorsey

The tight description, deft pacing, and coming-alive-off-the-page characters will have me standing in line for the next one.
critically acclaimed Irish master of noir Ken Bruen

Imagine Don Winslow peppered with Peter Dexter and you'd have the flavor and pace of this novel. The writing has a balanced poise that is perfectly suited to the narrative. There are no tidy solutions, and the ending leaves a fierce chill lingering. A terrific slow-motion burn of a novel.
dean of America's crime novel editors and owner o Otto Penzler

When it comes to fresh noir-on-wry, readers could not ask for more--except for the author to hurry up with Mulligan's next adventure in detection.
critically acclaimed author of Devil's Garden and Ace Atkins

A stunning debut. Authentic, hilarious, and compelling. I've read hundreds of crime books, but this one bleeds the truth.
Edgar Award–winning author of Red Leaves Thomas H. Cook

A debut novel as witty as it is intelligent, smoothly written, and wryly told, a gem.
author of 212 Alafair Burke

Rogue Island is a stunning debut, and DeSilva is a writer to watch.
Kirkus Reviews

The smallest state bursts with crime, corruption, wisecracks and neo-noir atmosphere in DeSilva's blistering debut.

Someone's set seven fires in the Mount Hope section of Providence. Arson for profit is all too common in the city's history, but these buildings were owned by different people and insured by different companies. So Ernie Polecki, indolent Chief Arson Investigator, and his incompetent assistant Roselli, the mayor's cousin, assume that they're the work of a firebug. So do the DiMaggios, the vigilante crew who patrol the nighttime streets with baseball bats. But not seen-it-all reporter Liam Mulligan. His festering ulcer, estrangement from his harpy wife Dorcas and romance with his young Princeton-trained colleague Veronica Tang, who won't have sex with him till he gets tested for HIV, haven't absorbed all his energy. Shrugging off the insistence of city editor Ed Lomax that he file a story on a dog who ran across the country from Oregon to rejoin his relocated owners (a hilarious episode that shows just how desperate his professional situation is), Mulligan homes in on the developing story. His interest is fueled by the number of interested parties he just happens to be close to—from his prom date Rosella Morelli, now Battalion Chief of the fire department, to his burned-out bookie, Dominic "Whoosh" Zerilli—and by the arsonist's apparent determination to torch every structure in Rhode Island's capital. At length the mounting toll includes homes, storefronts, people and Mulligan's questionable peace of mind. When the lead he's supplied investigators goes sour and his own life is threatened, he has no choice but to trust the cub reporter he's been saddled with—the publisher's son, whom he calls Thanks-Dad—and the mobsters who'd be perfectly willing to set fires themselves, but who draw the line at killing women and children.

Mulligan is the perfect guide to a town in which the only ways to get things done are to be connected to the right people or to grease the right palms.

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Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Liam Mulligan Series, #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.62(d)

Read an Excerpt


A plow had buried the hydrant under five feet of snow, and it took the crew of Engine Company No. 6 nearly fifteen minutes to find it and dig it out. The first fireman up the ladder to the second-floor bedroom window laid a hand on the aluminum siding and singed his palm through his glove.

The five-year-old twins had tried to hide from the flames by crawling under a bed. The fireman who carried the little boy down the ladder wept. The body was black and smoking. The fireman who descended with the little girl had already wrapped her in a sheet. The EMTs slid the children into the back of an ambulance and fishtailed down the rutted street with lights flashing, as if there were still a reason to hurry. The sixteen-year-old babysitter looked catatonic as she watched the taillights disappear in the dark.

Battalion Chief Rosella Morelli knocked the icicles off the brim of her fire hat. Then she whacked her gloved fist against the side of the gleaming red pumper.

“You counting?” I asked.

“Makes nine major house fires in Mount Hope in three months,” she said. “And five dead.”

The neighborhood of Mount Hope, wedged between an old barge canal and the swanky East Side, had been nailed together before the First World War to house the city’s swelling class of immigrant mill workers. Even then, decades before the mills closed and the jobs moved to South Carolina on their way to Mexico and Indonesia, it hadn’t been much to look at. Now lead paint flaked from the sagging porches of tinderbox triple-deckers. Flimsy cottages, many built without garages or driveways in an age of streetcars and shoe leather, smelled of dry rot in summer and wet rot in winter. Corroding Kenmores and Frigidaires crouched in the weeds that sprouted after the city dynamited the old Nelson Aldrich Junior High, where Mr. McCready first introduced me to Ray Bradbury and John Steinbeck.

The neighborhood’s straight, narrow streets, many named for varieties of trees that refused to grow there anymore, crisscrossed a gentle slope that offered occasional glimpses of downtown office towers and the marble dome of the statehouse. Real estate agents, fingers crossed behind their backs, called them “vistas.”

Mount Hope may not have been Providence’s best neighborhood, but it wasn’t its worst, either. A quarter of the twenty-six hundred families proudly owned their own homes. A community crime watch had cut down on the burglaries. Only 16 percent of the toddlers had lead poisoning from all that peeling paint, darn right healthy compared to the predominantly black and Asian neighborhood of South Providence, where the figure topped 40 percent. And five dead meant business was picking up at Lugo’s Mortuary, the neighborhood’s biggest legal business now that Deegan’s Auto Body had morphed into a chop shop and Marfeo’s Used Cars had given way to a heroin dealership.

The battalion chief watched her crew aim a jet of water through the twins’ bedroom window. “I’m getting real tired of notifying next of kin,” she said.

“Thank God you haven’t lost any of your men.”

She turned from the smoldering building and hit me with a withering glare, the same one she used to shame me when she caught me cheating at Chutes and Ladders when we were both six years old.

“You’re saying I should count my blessings?” she said.

“Just stay safe, Rosie.”

The glare softened a little. “Yeah, you too,” she said, although in my job the worst that was likely to happen was a paper cut.

Two hours later, I sat at the counter in my favorite Providence diner, sipping coffee from a heavy ceramic mug. The coffee was so good that I hated cutting it with so much milk. My ulcer growled that the milk wasn’t helping anyway.

The mug was smeared with ink from a fresh copy of the city edition. A pit bull, Rhode Island’s unofficial state dog, had mauled three toddlers on Atwells Avenue. The latest federal crime statistics had Providence edging out Boston and Los Angeles as the per-capita stolen-car capital of the world. Ruggerio “the Blind Pig” Bruccola, the local mob boss who pretended he was in the vending machine business, was suing the newspaper for printing that he was a mob boss pretending to be in the vending machine business. The state police were investigating game rigging at the state lottery commission. There was so much bad news that a perfectly good bad-news story, the fatal Mount Hope fire, had been forced below the fold on page one. I didn’t read that one because I’d written it. I didn’t read the others because they made my gut churn.

Charlie wiped beef-bloody hands on an apron that might have been white once and topped off my cup. “The hell you been, Mulligan? You smell like a fuckin’ ashtray.”

He didn’t expect an answer, and I didn’t offer one. He turned back to his work, tearing open two packs of buns. He balanced a dozen of them from wrist to shoulder along his sweat-slicked left arm, slapped in twelve Ball Park franks, and added mustard and sauerkraut. A snack for the overnighters at Narragansett Electric.

I took a sip and flipped to the sports page for the spring training news from Fort Myers.

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Rogue Island 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
markpsadler More than 1 year ago
Investigative journalist Mulligan drags us through the graft of the corruption that is Providence, Rhode Island, his beat; one that includes both crooked and inept cops, the mobsters they are chasing and the politicians who fund them all. Definitely an eye-opener for me, who always had thought of our smallest State as being full of Portuguese fishermen thanks to Rudyard Kipling. He would be surprised at the change! Mulligan is one of us, the common people. He has a wife he's trying to divorce, a boss who is never satisfied, long-standing friends and an ulcer he is trying to nurse. He also has a couple of informants on the wrong side of the street, a bookie with ties to the local mobsters he is investigating and a girlfriend who is holding out again. He is also totally believable; the fl awed protagonist we can all relate to. When a fire-bug starts burning down the neighborhood he grew up in, house by house, he takes to the streets with his newspaper colleagues in an effort to find out who is behind the fires. When he discovers the truth of who is really behind the tragedy, death and destruction, Mulligan is forced to take matters in his own hands. Bruised, battered and scarred we are given an open-eyed tour of Mount Hope. What you find there may surprise you. With charisma, grit and the knowledge that all will be right in the world as long as the Red Sox win the pendant, DeSilva leads us through the world of the local newspaper reporter. In this tough, barred-knuckles fight the good guy is triumphant this time. until the next big story, and boy I'll be waiting to read that one too.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Providence, Rhode Island, a serial arsonist is torching the Mount Hope section over the last three months with nine fires and five corpses. Reporter Liam Mulligan wants to catch the murderer who has killed friends and acquaintances from his old neighborhood. The city residents are in a panic as the police and fire department seem helpless. Mulligan's inquiry is enabled by a horde of collaborators stonewalled by a stunning coalition of cops, fire inspectors, politicians and landlords who make up the seamier underbelly of the city. Lawyers are thrown at him and the newspaper with threats to bankrupt the paper. The case turns even nastier when the police probe Mulligan insisting they have probable cause to name him a person of interest. The key element to this strong arson investigative noir is the support cast of hookers, runners, bookies and hoods who make the atmosphere come darkly alive and mouthy Mulligan fit as one of them. The whodunit is cleverly devised to keep readers' attention with a strong spin that will stun the audience. However, it is the denizen of the streets of the Mount Hope neighborhood especially in contrast to the "Suits" who make this an exhilarating mystery. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a native Rhode Islander reading this book was akin to reading accounts of daily happenings as reported in the Providence Journal. It presents a truer depiction of life in Rhode Island than some would want to reveal. The incorporation of the names of real people like Buddy Cinaci (former mayor of Providence who personified Rhode Island political life), Manny Ramirez of the beloved Red Sox and the Providence College basketball players added to the realism of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
written in such a wonderful old time style, that I "saw" the characters in black and white! Thank you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
well written characters and top story!
windyfw More than 1 year ago
The author gradually drew me into the plot and by the end was really into it.
BronxAngelReview More than 1 year ago
Good story. Great characters. Snappy dialogue. As a former NYC cop who worked in the South Bronx during the 1970s when the entire 41st precinct was burning, I really related to this book. I purchased the Kindle edition last night, finished it today. Enough said. TF
JoanieGranola More than 1 year ago
This novel reminds me of the style in which Dashiell Hammett wrote a mystery. There is a lot of [dry] humor injected throughout this novel, which I quite enjoy. Having been married to a newspaperman myself, I can certainly relate to the quirks of the main character and his obsession about having a police scanner in the bedroom. Unfortunately, I waited too long after completing the book to write a better review to Mr. DeSilva's novel - it deserves a much better plug than just "it's great". However, this book is great - the main character narration provides such minute detail to even the most basic of scenes, the story follows a logical sequence and there is enough action that keeps the reader engaged right through to the end. This is a great first novel and I look forward to more in the future.
Lynie More than 1 year ago
Someone has been setting fires in the Mount Hope section of Providence. People are dying and the police and arson investigators aren't making any progress in catching the firebug. Investigative reporter Liam Mulligan is devastated by the senseless death and destruction in his childhood neighborhood. It starts to become personal when people he cares about are seriously injured. Despite threats to his own safety, Mulligan is spending his time following the paper trail of just who benefits from the fires, a long and arduous road that takes him through the underbelly of Providence's mobsters and crooked politicians. Mulligan (as he prefers to be called) is a busy man. His ulcer is acting up. He's been assigned the task of taking the publisher's son Mason under his wing, and he's not thrilled. He's also cultivating a romantic relationship with fellow reporter Veronica Tang, while still dealing with his crazy, soon to be ex-wife. Mr. DeSilva has created a likable character in Mulligan and I hope we'll be seeing more books featuring this ace reporter. The grittiness of Rhode Island's long history of political corruption serves as the perfect backdrop for this terrific debut mystery. Lynn Kimmerle
Madriver More than 1 year ago
I won't rehash the plot here, but will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt some of the pain of the main character. And the Providence setting was dead on - I have no patience for authors who use real cities as setting for their books, but then make up things that anyone who's been there knows are fake. I'm looking forward to this author's next book, and I hope it stars the same main character.
Susan Anderson More than 1 year ago
a page turner, hard to put down
silencedogoodreturns More than 1 year ago
A delightful series, very readable. The old police/crime/detective novel with a twist: the protagonist is a cynical journalist rather than a cop.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The central theme of this novel is the question of who or what is behind the numerous arsons that are being set in a decaying part of Providence, Rhode Island. A number of these fires have already taken lives. L. A. S. Mulligan is an ace reporter for the local newspaper and he is taking these blazes very seriously. This is the neighborhood where he grew up and he knows the victims personally. His best friend since they were six years old is Rosie, the first female firechief in the city's storied history. Reporter and chief set out to discover the who and what that lies behind these tragedies. Along the journey, we meet a strong supporting cast of amusing characters, most of whom provide some really enjoyable lines and moments. This is an enjoyable and fast read and I give it a hearty recommendation to enjoy this new author's first published effort. J M Lydon
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
Having read an inspiring review of a later book in this series I decided to start at the beginning of this series. I was not disappointed.. Liam Mulligan is a newspaper reporter in a decaying section of Providence, RI. His life usually consists of the Red Sox, smoking cigars and getting screamed at by his ex-wife on the telephone. His newspaper is on its last leg as other new outlets have been making the printed page obsolete. Andy drives a decrepit Ford Bronco that he calls "Secretariat and lives in a messy small apartment. Suddenly a series of "suspicious" fires start happening and Liam keeps his ears peeled to the police scanner for any alert of a new fire. Places that Liam knew his whole life are being wiped out in the blazes and there are a lot of victims that Liam knew. Everyone in power seems to be either corrupt or incompetent and nothing is being done to find the culprit. Since it is personal, Liam realizes it is up to him to do something before everything is gone. The author does an amazing job of introducing interesting supporting characters. There is a bookie who works out of a supermarket office in his underwear who organizes a group of vigilantes to protect the town. There is Rosie, the fire captain who has been Liam's lifelong friend and Veronica his girlfriend who will not commit to Liam until he takes and AIDS test. The story is not what you expect from a thriller, making it difficult for the reader to guess what will happen next. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to finding the next two books in the series.
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As a native Rhode Islander who grew up in Providence, I had to read Bruce DeSilva's first effort at detective fiction set in the old hometown. While Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald have nothing to fear, DeSilva does put together an engaging story that captures much of the state's legendary culture of corruption. (And it was nice to learn that places like Caserta's and Camille's are still thriving on Federal Hill.) DeSilva could have spared us his Howard Zinn view of Rhode Island's (and America's) dreadful history, and focused a bit more on the success of the thousands of immigrant families who worked to make better lives for themselves and their children in the Ocean State. Rather, his own political views are pretty evident in his story telling. For example, while he points out the corruption of a 19th-century Republican political machine, he fails to mention the central fact of Rhode Island life today: the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is a one-party state, with the entrenched Democratic legislature and the powerful public-sector unions conjoined to put a stranglehold of high taxes on a struggling economy. The fact that largely blue-collar Rhode Islanders put up with this situation probably explains in part why "beating the system" is a necessity and business as usual. A decent read, but DeSilva's next effort could do without the politics.
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