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Showing 1-10 of 103 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 157 reviews
on September 6, 2012
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.
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VINE VOICEon November 3, 2016
First Sentence: 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.

Newspaperman Liam Mulligan is a true son on Providence, RI. His beat isn’t the elite. It’s the crooks, mobsters, and hookers, as well as the police and fire departments. Now, someone is starting fires in his old neighborhood. First, it’s just empty buildings. Until it’s not. Mulligan wants to know who, and what, is behind it. Trying to get the answers may cost him his life.

DeSilva’s opening is not only heartbreaking, but the implications are terrifying. Seven arson fires with a half-mile in three months is no accident.

It’s hard to tell about other places, but if one is from the East Coast--meaning from New Jersey to Boston’s North Shore--this book is very recognizable, and very effective. Providence is a small, tight community, especially amongst those who have been there for generations, and you feel that. “When a Rhode Islander needs something he can’t flat out steal, there are two ways to get it. …Chances are, in a state this small, you know somebody who can help. … No? Then you have the option of offering a small gratuity. Graft, Rhode Island’s leading service industry, is widely misunderstood by citizens of states you can’t stroll across on your lunch break. Those of us who live here know that it comes in two varieties, good and bad, just like cholesterol.”

DeSilva’s characters are very real. There are good guys, bad guys, and many who are varying shades of grey. Mulligan, Rosie, the first female fire chief, and Edward Anthony Mason IV, son of the newspaper’s owner and referred to as “Thanks-Dad” by Mulligan, are definitely the good guys. You enjoy them and worry about them. DeSilva’s prognostication of the newspaper industry is depressing and one we’ve come to see.

The language is what one would expect to find among people of this rank so if one is profanity-adverse, this is not the book for you. However, if you like sarcasm and well-done narration that occasionally makes you chuckle, one should enjoy this. A side note is that DeSilva incorporates his wife’s poem and his daughter’s name into the story. Yes, it does pay to read the author notes.

DeSilva’s descriptions are so effective—“I heard the fire before I felt it, the flames sounding like a thousand flags snapping in the wind. I felt it before I saw it, the head like a backhand slap from the devil.” History buffs will appreciate the historical information that runs through the story.

“Rogue Island” has humor and a bit of romance, but the underlying crimes are very serious and have heart-breaking consequences. In the end, it is a story of trust, betrayal and justice, realized in an unorthodox way.

ROGUE ISLAND (Lic Inv/Jour-Liam Mulligan- Providence, RI-Contemp) – G+
DeSilva, Bruce – 1st in series
Forge – 2010
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on October 2, 2016
If this book depicts the real Providence, RI, I have no desire to visit there. Corruption, double-dealing, and backstabbing run rampant throughout the book

The story itself is an interesting twist on an arson-for-profit crime. But the secondary characters – cops, gangsters, women angling to sleep with the MC – are straight out of central casting. The here climax isn’t a true resolution, just an ending. Yes, the bad guys pay the price for their crimes, but DeSilva gives a more satisfying wrap-up to several sub-plots than the main one.

I didn’t hate this book but it didn’t really reach the level of okay either. So call it 2½ stars: Not good enough to read more.
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on August 18, 2014
The setting of this novel is Rhode Island, and, being a Rhode Islander as well as a lover of mysteries, I was particularly interested in reading this book. The first person narrator of the book, a hard-nosed newspaper reporter named Mulligan, is a delight: a real human being with a quirky voice that is consisted throughout the novel. The settings include much local color (including people) that would resonate with any Rhode Islander. The weakness of the book, however, is in its plot. An arsonist is on the loose, creating havoc and Mulligan is embroiled in it all. There are fights, deaths, sex, and all the requisites of a hard-boiled detective tale, but it’s all too pat in the end.
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on May 9, 2011
I'm starting to wonder if I read the same book as some of the other reviewers! First, the good parts. I too appreciated the local color, and the wisecracking good-bad Mulligan. Sure, the sarcastic reporter is a cliche, but somehow, magically, DeSilva managed to keep it fresh and interesting (possibly by creating a few other cliche characters, which was like waving a big sign that said "I know they're cliche, so what?" Somehow, that worked).

The story was pretty standard for a journalism thriller, and like some other readers I was able to guess what was going on, although there were still a few surprises. The best part was the author kept the action going nonstop!

That is, until almost the end. The last few chapters seemed to have come out of a different book. Every thread stalled completely, and I found myself not caring what happened next, as well as desperately wishing for the novel I'd been reading to come back and entertain me some more. The author said Otto Penzler read this; maybe he didn't make it that far?

The dead stop was a big disappointment. I'd knock off a star and a half if there were halves--but the rest of the book is way above average, so a four will have to do. I'll still read the next one, and hopefully next time the action will keep on going!
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on May 31, 2016
Many laughs here along with the very gritty and serious aspects of an investigative reporter trying to help stop terrifying crimes. I loved the explanations of the Rhode Island dialect, a truly unique language! A very satisfying fast read .
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on May 28, 2011
Like everywhere, the newspaper industry is in decline, but it is still a local force in Providence. crusading newspaper reporter Liam Mulligan is investigating a series of arsons in his old neighborhood. He tangles with organized crime and political corruption. People are being killed or seriously injured. The story is well crafted and well written, but the plot perhaps gets a little too much into the author's crusade about political corruption in the state where getting things done might depend on who you are related to, who you know, and how much money you can slip to someone under the table. There is also a side plot about his estranged-wife and his love life in general.

You will get a good view of the underside of Rhode Island - the part that they don't advertise to the tourist industry, at least not to family oriented tourists.
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on October 4, 2016
The author does a super job of describing the area. The story was okay, but I never was sure exactly what time era the story took place in. Maybe the 80's. Stories about struggling reporters are way overdone, but the author did a good job of keeping it interesting.
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on October 20, 2010
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.
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on October 24, 2016
On of my best reads of 2016, I thoroughly enjoyed Liam Mulligan and his adventures, both personal and professional. The author's portrayal of Providence and it's environs was spot on, the characters believable and memorable. Highly recommend this book.
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