Edgar Award-winner Bruce DeSilva returns with Liam Mulligan, an old-school investigative reporter for a dying newspaper in Providence, Rhode Island. Mulligan knows every street and alley, every priest and prostitute, every cop and street thug. He knows the mobsters and politicianswho are pretty much one and the same.
Inspired by a true story, Providence Rag finds Mulligan, his pal Mason, and the newspaper they both work for at an ethical crossroad. The youngest serial killer in history butchered five of his neighbors before he was old enough to drive. When he was caught eighteen years ago, Rhode Island's antiquated criminal statutesnever intended for someone like himrequired that all juveniles, no matter their crimes, be released at age twenty-one. The killer is still behind bars, serving time for crimes supposedly committed on the inside. That these charges were fabricated is an open secret; but nearly everyone is fine with itif the monster ever gets out more people will surely die. But Mason is not fine with it. If officials can get away with framing this killer they could do it to anybody. As Mason sets out to prove officials are perverting the justice system, Mulligan searches frantically for some legal way to keep the monster behind bars. The dueling investigations pit the friends against each other in a high-stakes race against timeand snares them in an ethical dilemma that has no right answer.
Providence Rag is a gripping novel of suspense by one of the rising talents in the mystery field.
About the Author
BRUCE DeSILVA spent forty-one years as a journalist before writing Rogue Island, his first novel, which won the 2011 Edgar and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel.
Read an Excerpt
After her live-in boyfriend was transferred to the graveyard shift, Becky Medeiros fell into the evening habit of lounging around the house in her underwear. Or sometimes in the nude. She kept the front and side curtains drawn after dark, but the house backed up on a wooded lot, so she was often careless with the rear windows.
The neighborhood potheads had discovered her habit. After sundown, they often gathered beneath the low branches of a large white pine ten yards from her back fence to pass a joint and enjoy the show. Later, police would find a disturbance in the thick blanket of pine needles. Forty-five discarded roaches and a scattering of torn Doritos bags and Snickers wrappers told them someone had been lurking there on and off for weeks.
Becky was an attractive young woman. Slim waist, long muscular legs, small firm breasts. A dancer’s body. The watchers whispered crude jokes and imagined what it would be like to screw her. All but one of them. He harbored a different fantasy.
It had been an unusually hot and dry Rhode Island spring; but on the evening of Friday, June 5, the temperature fell into the low sixties, and threatening clouds shimmered like embers beneath the setting sun. Shortly before ten, it began to rain. Only a few drops penetrated the pine’s thick branches, but the weather had kept the other peepers away. This time, he had the hiding place all to himself.
He yanked a handkerchief from the front pocket of his hoodie, wiped raindrops from his binoculars, and raised them to his eyes. There she was, naked in the warm glow of her bedside lamp as she stretched and twisted to a yoga instructional video flashing blue on the small television above her bureau. She bent at the waist now, right hand touching left ankle, her ass an offering.
From weeks of watching, he knew she rarely turned in before Late Night signed off. But tonight she killed the TV after David Letterman’s monologue and slipped out of the bedroom. A moment later, the bathroom light snapped on, narrow beams leaking between the cracks of the venetian blinds.
He swept the binoculars back and forth from the bathroom to the bedroom until, ten minutes later, she reappeared wrapped in a hot-pink towel. She dropped the towel to the floor, sat on the edge of her bed, and turned off the bedside lamp.
He lingered under the tree, giving her time to fall asleep. Then he laid his binoculars in the pine needles, crawled out from under the branches, vaulted her white picket fence, and crossed the wet grass to the rear door. There, an overhead lamp was burning. He reached up and gave the bulb a twist, extinguishing the light.
He tried the door. It was locked. He considered breaking a pane of glass to reach the inside latch, but that would make too much noise. Instead, he edged along the back of the house, looking for another way inside.
The kitchen window was open a crack. Perhaps Becky had forgotten to close it. Perhaps she had wanted to let the cool night air in. He pried off the screen and eased the window up. Then he sat on his haunches, removed his size twelve Nikes, placed them in the grass, and hoisted himself into the dark house.
He landed with a thud on the dinette table, knocking over the salt and pepper shakers. They rolled off the edge and shattered. He slid off the table, got to his feet, and froze, listening to the sounds of the dark house. At first, he heard only the ticking of a clock. Then the refrigerator clicked on and hummed to itself. He broke into a nervous sweat. After three or four minutes, he was desperately thirsty.
When he was confident that Becky had not awakened, he padded across the linoleum to the refrigerator, opened the door, and saw several cans of Diet Coke, a carton of orange juice, and a sippy cup half filled with milk. He grabbed the OJ and gulped, dribbling some down the front of his hoodie.
He set the carton on the counter and had just closed the refrigerator when the bedroom door creaked. He spun toward the hallway and saw Becky standing there in the nude. Perhaps the racket he’d made had roused her after all. Or maybe she’d just gotten up to go to the bathroom. She knew who he was. She’d often seen him riding his bike through the neighborhood and throwing a football in the street.
She opened her mouth to scream.
He charged into the hallway, grabbed her by the throat, and slammed her against the wall. Her head dented the plasterboard. Stunned, she slumped to the floor. He dashed back to the kitchen, clawed through the drawers under the counter, and pulled out an eight-inch chef’s knife.
In the hallway, Becky staggered to her feet, her left temple dribbling blood. He lowered a shoulder and flew at her, hitting her the way he’d seen Andre Tippett, the New England Patriots’ all-star linebacker, T-bone running backs on TV. She went down hard, landing on her back. He pounced and raised the knife. She screamed and deflected the blade with her arms.
Becky was young and strong. She battled ferociously in that cramped space. But he outweighed her by 130 pounds. In a minute, maybe less, she lay motionless, her breathing ragged, blood bubbling from the holes in her chest.
He looked up and saw the little one standing a few feet away, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She was dressed in My Little Pony pajamas like the ones his sister used to wear. He rose to his knees, swung the knife, and cut her down. Then he turned back to Becky, stabbing with such force that the steel blade snapped off at the handle.
Becky’s screams had made his ears ring in that narrow hallway. Had her cries alarmed the neighbors? He got to his feet, stepped through an archway into the living room, and padded across the carpet to the front window. Pulling the curtain aside, he pressed his forehead against the glass and peered out. Nothing was stirring.
He returned to the kitchen, drew two more knives from a drawer, and went back to work on Becky, stabbing her in the chest and abdomen long after he was certain she was dead. Finally he clambered to his feet, his face, hands, and hoodie drenched in her blood, and rinsed himself off at the kitchen sink.
Then he walked back to the hallway, stood over the bodies, unzipped his fly, and freed his erection. He spit on his right palm, stared at the woman, and moved his fist rhythmically, glorying in the power he’d felt as the knife penetrated her skin again and again. He threw back his head and moaned.
When he was done, he reached down and jerked a heart-shaped silver locket from the slim chain around Becky’s neck—a keepsake to hold whenever he relived this night.
Stepping over the bodies, he entered Becky’s room, tore a mint-green satin comforter from her bed, and threw it on the floor. He stripped off the matching sheet, carried it into the hallway, and draped it over the dead. Then he walked back to the kitchen and peeked out the open window. The same stillness greeted him. Satisfied that no one was watching, he shoved the dinette table aside and climbed out.
He sat on his rump in the grass, pulled off the bloody socks, and put his shoes back on, not bothering with the laces. It was raining harder now. Taking the socks with him, he sprinted across the backyard and jumped the fence. He fetched his binoculars from beneath the white pine. Then he pulled off his hoodie and did a poor job of hiding it and his socks, cramming them under some brush in the wooded lot.
Ten minutes later, he sneaked into his family’s sleeping house and crept up the stairs to the second floor. There he showered before flopping into bed, feeling euphoric but exhausted. Clutching Becky’s locket in his hand, he fell into a blissful, dream-rich sleep.
Copyright © 2014 Bruce DeSilva
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A real disappointment. OK read, not as tightly written as the first two in the series. But the main problem I had with it was that it was just a thinly disguised diatribe against Republicans and those not supporting unions and deficit spending. Fox News must live in DeSilva's head rent free, because he disparages just about its whole lineup, though he saves his namecalling for women like Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Sustern. He also bashes the usual suspects, Sheriff Joe Arpao and, of course, George Bush. The real laugher is when he has a police officer say that if the "republicans" get their way, police pensions would be reduced. Out of 15 city council member on the Providence city council, guess how many are Republican? Zero. Yet, if the city votes to reduce public employee benefits because the state is growing broke, it's the Republicans fault. Frankly, I thought Mr DeSilva above this low brow political bashing. But like many who recently become limousine liberals, I guess he feels obligated to show how he is down for the cause. It detracts from the story, and is irrelevant to the plot.
A very good read. Fast paced and different. Had trouble putting it down.