Providence Rag: A Liam Mulligan Novel
by Bruce DeSilva
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765374295
Date: 11 March 2014 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
I must brag about Bruce DeSilva's provocative thriller, Providence Rag. It is one of the most thoroughly entertaining novels I've read this year; it is positively engrossing. Providence Rag is the best of the Liam Mulligan trilogy, which includes Rogue Island and Cliff Walk. Spanning several decades, the novel chronicles the life of a psychosexual killer from childhood to adult. It is controversial in that it raises questions about nature versus nurture in regards to the creation of a serial killer. Does an abusive environment create a serial killer or simply reinforce their innate desire to murder? I found it disturbing that the serial killer's collection of favorite horror films mirrored my own. However, I am not a serial killer. Coincidentally, both the serial killer and I were raised in Christian homes with supportive, loving families. The serial killer in Providence Rag chooses to kill; I do not.
Perhaps DeSilva's novel would have been more aptly titled, Providence Rage. Many are enraged over the events of this novel, including myself. The serial killer may be released and all of Rhode Island is enraged. I detest the serial killer, who is extremely perverse, demented, and amoral. He declares his innocence while dreaming of being released so that he can kill again.
I am angry at the rich, spoiled Mason who is working diligently to free the serial killer while his coworkers, Mulligan and Gloria Costa (a victim of a brutal attack herself), are diligently trying to thwart his efforts and keep the murderer in prison. Sometimes, there are hilarious consequences. Mason suffers much abuse (in the form of threatening letters, a vandalized car, etc.) from concerned citizens and prison guards. I kept wondering when Mason was going to realize that this scumbag's freedom wasn't worth the suffering he was enduring. However, he is persistent that justice be served despite the consequences towards him and the many blonde women who are potential prey when the killer is released.
Providence Rag is both a superb whodunit and a gripping courtroom drama. Much of the novel is spent on Mulligan and his police friend, Andy Jennings, investigating the brutal slayings of two blonde women and their daughters. Next, the perp is incarcerated and, years later, Mulligan must relive the nightmare as he struggles with his conscious while trying to keep the serial killer locked away.
Providence Rag is seeped with human drama. I felt sorrow for Mulligan as he experiences one tragedy after another as the years pass. His trips to the graveyard to visit a dear friend tore at my heart. His coworker, Gloria, must struggle with her fear that the serial killer will be released. Her eye patch is a constant reminder of the pain she suffered from one brutal attack. Meanwhile, Mulligan, Gloria, and Mason must also live with the fear of losing their jobs as subscriptions for the Providence Dispatch are canceled because of a disastrous economy and anger over its publication of articles that will help free the serial killer.
There is something for everyone in Bruce DeSilva's superb Providence Rag: a vicious psychosexual killer, gory killings, a riveting whodunit, controversial political issues, emotional human drama, dark humor, and tender romance. I can't give this novel enough praise. All mystery fans should read it. What disturbs me the most about this novel is that it is based on two actual serial killers who terrorized Rhode Island. DeSilva, a former reporter for the Providence Journal, obviously knows what he is writing about in this fast-paced novel, which reads like non-fiction.
Readers will stay up late to learn the identity of the serial killer and whether or not he will go free. I can't wait to read DeSilva's next Liam Mulligan novel to learn if it as good as Providence Rag. That is going to be a tough act to follow.