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Rogue Island    by Bruce DeSilva order for
Rogue Island
by Bruce DeSilva
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's one I wasn't sure I'd enjoy but now wonder why I didn't have the sense to read sooner. Bruce DeSilva's excellent debut in Rogue Island introduces smart-ass, wisecracking reporter Liam Mulligan (mostly called Mulligan). He's an old-style newspaperman whose idealism has been tempered by a cynicism fomented by the steady stream of graft ('Rhode Island's leading service industry') that surrounds him in Providence.

Mulligan is a great character. His crazed and jealous ex-wife Dorcas refuses a divorce and harangues him daily. He lives in a seedy, minimalist apartment (Dorcas having taken everything, even his beloved dog Rewrite), calls his aged Bronco Secretariat, and has a penchant for classic hard-boiled detective novels. Having grown up in Providence, he knows everyone and has plenty of olds friend (like fire chief Rosie Morelli) and old enemies (starting with the corrupt mayor) in town. His boss at the paper, Lomax, keeps assigning him dog stories, which he disdains.

But it's not all fun and games, as arson strikes again and again, killing indiscriminately from the very young to the old, and also firemen - is it a serial arsonist or is something else going on? Unfortunately the investigation is led by a duo that Mulligan accurately labels Dumb and Dumber in one of his article. So he cruises the streets at night, searching for clues - as does the paper's wannabe photographer, talented Sharon Stone lookalike Gloria Costa, who makes clear her attraction to Mulligan.

As the story develops, so does Mulligan's relationship with gorgeous courthouse reporter Veronica Tang, who's aiming for the big leagues in Washington. And he's ordered to mentor the publisher's son, a rookie reporter who picked Mulligan to work with. Though this partnership starts rocky, Edward Anthony Mason IV (who looks like 'he'd just stepped off a page of The Great Gatsby') eventually proves himself an asset.

Before the end, Mulligan is attacked and arrested, while people he loves are hurt badly. And, true to form for Providence, Mulligan has to work outside the law to find justice. It's a remarkable debut, which I enjoyed both for the thoroughly engaging story and for great one-liners like Mulligan's view of poetry - 'It does nothing for me, unless Bob Dylan's whining it through his nose.' I hope we will have more Mulligan, the sooner the better.

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