80 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I've lived in Rhode Island all my life, albeit downstate. I'm an avid reader of everything from mysteries to nonfiction, very picky, and a former, now part-time journalist. I was entranced by this book from page one. DeSilva has done a wonderful job combining inside knowledge with a true love for our screwed up, but wonderful state. His hero is a well-written character, reminiscent of Spenser, but with a more human, believable personality. The plot line was great, his characters entertaining. Even if you're not from the Biggest Little State in the Union, you'll enjoy this fast-paced, well-written book. Looking forward to more from this author.
56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Rogue Island is a terrific book, written by an outstanding reporter who was a great writing coach for The Hartford Courant and then the Associated Press. The testimonials on the book jacket are actually right on target--the writing is superb and true to the newsroom and street scenes. DeSilva's characters jump off the page, alive with all their human flaws. The pages are like potato chips--you can't read just one. DeSilva is especially skilled at creating a sense of place--Providence is so real you can touch and smell it. And his hero, investigative reporter Liam Mulligan, has just the right touch of cynicism and idealism. I'm looking foward to Mulligan's next adventure and to his inaugural appearance in what surely will be a series of movies. To bad William Powell or Bogart aren't around to play him. Perhaps Matt Damon will do.
61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2010
I read this book in three sittings over a weekend; it was hard to put down. The plot is fast-paced, and the writing is sparse yet rich, and studded with laugh-out-loud lines. When a book is this easy to read, you know the writer worked hard. Bruce combines this discipline with an ability to entertain. He has the requisite anatomy _ an ear for dialog, an eye for detail, a head for street smarts and the heart of a softie. Plus insights into human nature that come from having seen more than a few slices of life.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
If you like fast-paced crime thrillers with a rich sense of of atmosphere and a strong male protagonist, this is the book for you -- just don't expect too much from the plot. Set in a richly detailed grimy Providence, RI, the story follows newspaper reporter Mulligan ("just Mulligan") as he pokes his nose into an outbreak of arson in the city's run-down Mount Hope neighborhood. Meanwhile, the separated-and-nearly-divorced Mulligan is also embarking on a new relationship with the paper's beautiful courthouse reporter while fending off the attentions of the paper's hot photo-lab lady.
The book largely succeeds as an example of using the crime genre as a vehicle for presenting social history -- the reader learns about Providence's sordid past and present as Mulligan rolls around its streets and various local haunts form the backdrops for scenes. It's very reminiscent of aspects of George Pelecanos's crime novels set in and around Washington, D.C., which deliver a much more richly authentic history of the city and its inhabitants than any guide or history book. The whole reason I picked up the book is that I have two good friends who've settled in the Providence, and I was looking to get a little more sense of the city. In that respect, the book is quite good (although the constant Red Sox boosterism gets exceedingly tiresome).
Unfortunately, as a mystery/crime story the book is much less successful. The motive for the arson is easily guessed at, and when a hint regarding who might stand to benefit is given, it sticks out like a sore thumb. However, since the story requires some action, it delays the intrepid reporter hero from vigorously pursuing the obvious paper trail that will lead him to the motive and perpetrators. I'm not the kind of reader who likes to try and "figure out" a story along the way, I prefer to get immersed and let the story take me along for the ride. But this was a rare case where I kept waiting and waiting for the protagonist to take the obvious step that would lead him to the obvious culprit, and when he finally does, it's fairly underwhelming.
There are a few other missteps, for example the author cheezily inserting a mention of his wife's book of poetry into the story in a way that felt completely forced. I also found Mulligan's tough-reporter-meets-wise-guy patter just a bit too over-the-top at times. Partway through the book, a new character is introduced in a kind of "Odd Couple" partnership role that feels a bit forced. On the whole, I can write these off as the normal flaws of a first novel, and I'll definitely be checking out the next in the series for the local color, I just hope that the plot is much stronger.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This terrific debut novel is so reminiscent of Robert parker's early (and best) Spenser novels, I had to check the cover to make sure he had not written it.
Set in Providence, Rhode Island, DeSilva's narrator, Mulligan, is a an old-fashioned reporter in the dying newspaper industry. Providence is his home town and he knows everyone, including the crooks - which comprise most of the city's population. There is a horrendous string of arsons in the Mount Hope section of the city and Mulligan investigates them. Along the way he falls in love with a fellow reporter and unwillingly takes on the blueblood publisher's son as a partner. He refers to the 'kid' as "Thanks-Dad".
As Spenser would quote poetry, Mulligan quotes classic movie. As Spenser knew Boston, Mulligan knows Providence and brings it alive to the reader.
Mulligan is a fully fleshed out character with depth and emotions. The supporting cast is terrific and varied. Just when you think there is a stereotype, the character steps out of form. The underworld of Providence is brought to light in a humorous manner without the descriptions being trite. All the characters are believable.
Mulligan's frustration in solving the arsons is palpable. Eventually he does solve them - he is after all, the hero. Solving only leads to more frustration. If there is one weakness in the book, the ending is a bit too pat, but that criticism pales when compared to the quality of the rest of the book.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book that I enjoyed from start to finish. I am hopeful that Mr. DeSilva will follow with more Mulligan mysteries. This was a great debut, but that is not to diminish it. It is a great read whether an author's first or fifteenth mystery. Highly recommended.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
According to the author's introductory words to this novel, he received a note in 1994 about a story he had written for the newspaper where he worked as a reporter in Providence, Rhode Island, suggesting that it could serve as the outline for a novel. He did begin to write such a book, only to put it aside because of personal problems. The note was from Evan Hunter (Ed McBain). A couple of years ago, the author met Otto Penzler who, when he learned about the note, said: "Evan never had a good thing to say about anything anyone else wrote . . . you've got to finish that novel."
And we can all thank Otto Penzler and the late Evan Hunter for their encouragement. This debut novel merits their praise, and then some. It is witty, well-paced, entertaining, cynical, and worthy of its nomination for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel.
Liam Mulligan is a wise-cracking investigative reporter for a Providence daily, who closely pursues a story on a series of fires in a small neighborhood that turn out to be cases of arson, resulting not only in destruction of property but fatalities. It is up to Mulligan to uncover not only the schemes behind these crimes, but the corruption endemic to the State of Rhode Island, and specifically its capital, giving rise to the title of the novel. No more about the plot, because you have to read the book. And enjoy.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This was an enjoyable read. What really hooked me were the colorful characters, particularly the novel's star, Mulligan. DeSilva does a great job capturing the newsroom pro, complete with his witty banter, quirks and odd collection of associates. Great one liners are smoothly woven into the story. If you like a crime novel with a engaging main character that will make you laugh, this is a good fit.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
A mad arsonist blazes a trail through Providence, R.I., focusing on the low-income immigrant neighborhood of Mount Hope, former home of reporter Liam Mulligan. Mulligan is a newspaperman -- emphasis on the paper -- who's so old-school he still smears ink all over everything he touches. The city's arson investigators are too fat, lazy and incompetent, so Mulligan takes it upon himself to track the killer firebug. And that's about it as far as plot goes in former AP newsman Bruce DeSilva's crime fiction debut, "Rogue Island."
In the course of his journalistic crusading, Mulligan interacts with a progression of stereotypes from decades past: the Italian goombah ("Aaay, Vinnie!" "Fuhgeddaboudit."), the long-suffering editor (think Perry White or J. Jonah Jameson), the screeching shrew of an obscenity-spewing ex-wife and various hot women who naturally all want to sleep with Mulligan. He attends funerals for the arsonist's victims where DeSilva's attempts at unearned pathos fall flat. It's hard to feel anything for the dead when, by DeSilva's own accounting, the only people who live in Rhode Island are cartoon characters. It would be like mourning Wile E. Coyote. Later in the book, DeSilva displays a profoundly dysfunctional sense of irony when Mulligan smirks at a cliche-ridden broadcast from the local TV news airheads. "Who the hell writes that crap?" he wonders.
Mulligan isn't the only thing old-school about "Rogue Island." DeSilva spent 40-odd years working in the news media, and it's obvious he misses the pre-Internet days of print journalism: when grizzled old veterans did almost as much drinking and smoking at their desks as they did writing; when people communicated in complete sentences that often exceeded 140 characters; when everyone not shepherding late editions congregated after work at the nearby "newspaper bar" until closing, then went home with whomever. I don't blame him. I came into the biz at the tail end of that era and was lucky enough to learn my trade under those grizzled old vets. In many ways, those days were much more interesting and colorful than today's sterile, corporate newsrooms. Unfortunately, that time is gone, and it's not coming back. If DeSilva wanted to cling to the past, he should have set his novel in the past. Or he should have made a more serious attempt at addressing the newsroom dichotomy between the slow but accurate newspaper relics and the leap-before-you-look Twitterverse. Cramming his story into a modern framework makes it seem anachronistic and out of touch, less of a realistic, gripping thriller and more of an empty exercise in homage to the many crime writers DeSilva checks by name throughout his text.
Inevitably, I suppose, the second novel featuring Liam Mulligan came out shortly after I bought "Rogue Island." That is one modern aspect of DeSilva's writing: Everything's a franchise in the mystery genre these days. Standalone crime novels are becoming a rarity as characters return again and again for repeat performances. If I'd known "Rogue Island" was the inaugural volume of the Continuing Adventures of Liam Mulligan, I doubt I would've picked it up.
Like many series characters, Liam Mulligan has a bad case of the smartypants. Since the days when Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe antagonized cops, clients and crooks alike with his razor one-liners, fictional detectives have been moonlighting as stand-up comics. The big difference is that Marlowe was genuinely witty, his dialog an absolute joy to read. Many of his sleuthing progeny are merely asking for a slap upside the head. When I began to hear mental rimshots every time Mulligan dropped a line, I started rooting for the bad guys to beat him harder.
Even I am not totally immune to the franchise detective, but my series character dance card has long since been filled by the likes of Dave Robicheaux, Kenzie and Gennaro, Hap and Leonard, Burke, Parker and too many others. Anyone who wants to be added to that list had better impress me with their originality or mad writing skills. "Rogue Island" is strictly stock, forgoing believable characters in favor of archetypes from an old B&W on Turner Classic Movies. If DeSilva is just going to rehash the classics, why should I bother? I still have plenty of the originals in my to-read piles.
I realize I'm the one being anachronistic and out of touch in my prejudice against this brand of mysteries. If franchise heroes didn't sell, there wouldn't be so dadgum many of them being written and published. Readers like them. They eat up every installment, then clamor for more adventures featuring their favorite crimefighter, stories told in a comforting first person that ensures nothing too terribly awful will happen and that guarantees there will be another sequel.
DeSilva's broad sense of humor is certain to appeal to many of those mystery fans:
"Seems that last week, the mayor's probable opponent in next fall's election had legally changed her name from Angelina V. Rico to Angelina V. aRico so she would be listed first alphabetically on the ballot. But yesterday, Mayor Rocco D. Carozza legally changed his name to Rocco D. aaaaCarozza."
If that made you laugh, I have good news for you: There's two novels' worth of "more where that came from" for you to look forward to. If, on the other hand, that made you roll your eyes and heave a sigh, chances are that, like me, you are a humorless bastard who needs to look for his kicks elsewhere. I also could have done without DeSilva's clumsy attempts to shill for his wife's crummy poetry by shoehorning it in where it doesn't belong.
There are armies of readers who live on a steady diet of the kind of easy reading DeSilva serves up. It's not that he's a bad writer. He's quite competent at what he does, but what he does is of no interest to me personally.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Rogue Island is the author's "debut" and introduces us to Liam Mulligan - known simply as "Mulligan". Our hero is a 40-ish investigative newspaper reporter, living and working in his home town of Providence, Rhode Island. An "avenger" of sorts, Mulligan is tireless once on the scent of a story, sarcastic, somewhat technology phobic - a cell-phone and police radio scanner his only "tools" - and enough of a teddy-bear that the women like him. This book has received rave reviews - including blurbs on the cover from Lehane and Connelly -and although entertaining, I found the mystery/story-line of Rogue Island very thin.
Mulligan's world contains an interesting, but stock set of supporting characters - gorgeous and ambitious female reporter sharing the newsroom with Mulligan - and his bed, cautious unimaginative bosses, an over the top, angry, soon to be ex-wife, a childhood best friend running the local fire department, dolts on the police force, and Italian mob figures. The reader meets them while a serial arsonist is at work in the New Hope area of town - not only destroying property but also taking lives - and crusader Mulligan becomes personally involved - going where no police investigator dares to go.
This scenario is set up very early in the book - with a bang - and then the story settles into a repetitive loop, hitting the same keys over and over again - The continuation of the crimes, lack of progress by the police and Mulligan's "love life" - including the phone calls from his shrew of a soon to be ex-wife. The latter is funny the first three or four times, tiresome by the twentieth - even the music our hero listens to in his truck - nicknamed "Secretariat" - is the same.
Compounding this lull, it becomes very obvious about half-way through the book who is behind the fires and the reader then waits for Mulligan to catch up - never a good thing for a mystery/thriller and the conclusion thus anti-climactic. During all this our hero's wise-cracks also test the reader's patience - they too running out of steam early on and becoming downright corny. (For instance Mulligan is assigned a new "partner" - the newspaper's owner's son - and much like his ex-wife's phone calls, Mulligan's "hazing" is initially humorous, but it too becomes repetitive and tiresome.)
I came to this book with very high expectations due to the reviews I've read and I really should know better by now. Rogue Island is a better than average debut and the author does a very good job in painting a gritty picture of current day Rhode Island as well as filling the reader in on the state's history, but again the plot/storyline is a tad weak. (I also found this book very similar to Brian McGrory's Jack Flynn series - not only in the protagonists' chosen profession, but also in tone, style and particularly "humor".)
Rogue Island is a light entertaining read, but not particularly memorable.