Forge/Tom Doherty & Associates, $25.99, 351 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-7429-5
One of my favorite literary characters and amateur sleuths is a wise-cracking, cigar-chomping, hometown-homeboy ace investigative reporter and crime-fighting journalist by the name of Liam Mulligan. He’s based in Providence, Rhode Island, working for a venerated, one hundred forty year old newspaper that’s barely managing to stay afloat, thanks mostly to the publisher’s deep sense of responsibility to the city and public he serves . . . and his willingness to subsidize it from his own pocket. Mulligan’s job hangs by a thread, but he keeps right on doing it to the best of his ability; an act which makes him a noble character, worthy of our attention, if not our adulation. He’s the creation of Bruce DeSilva, himself an old newspaperman with forty years of reporting experience to his credit. His newest work is Providence Rag, in which Mulligan and the paper he works for are caught on the horns of an ethical dilemma. At issue is Rhode Island’s youngest-ever serial killer. He’s an unrepentant monster who killed five of his neighbors as a young teenager, not yet old enough to drive a car. He’s due to be released from prison because of a technicality in the law which states that all teenaged prisoners, no matter what the crime, must be released on their twenty-first birthday. It’s an antiquated statute, never amended or rewritten, and never intended to deal with a case such as this. The killer’s release date has been pushed back and delayed by false accusations of violence, sworn to by various prison guards and attested to by others in order to prevent the fully-grown man who dreams of committing more murders from leaving the penitentiary. The ploy is common knowledge among law enforcement officials and Mulligan is in agreement. Mason however, Mulligan’s pal and the publisher’s son, is actively campaigning for the prisoner’s immediate release on moral, ethical and legal grounds, thus setting in motion an ethical dilemma from which there is no apparent solution. Based upon an actual case history, Providence Rag will keep you involved to the last word on the last page as your sense of moral outrage wrestles with your primal urge to protect those you love. Powerful and timely, this one’s another winner from the Edgar awarded pen of Bruce DeSilva.