home buttonbook linkblog linkvideo linklinks buttonContact

"Providence Rag is both a terrifying revelation of the mind of a born killer and a dramatic portrait of a newspaper man determined to do right no matter what.” -- Howard Frank Mosher, author of Waiting for Teddy Williams

Providence Rag
finds Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Rhode Island newspaper, at an ethical crossroads. The youngest serial killer in U.S. history was supposed to be released from prison on a technicality at age 21, but for years, the authorities have been fabricating new charges to keep him locked up. Mulligan knows that if authorities can get away with framing the killer, they could do the same thing to anybody. But he also knows the killer is much too dangerous to be set free. The dilemma pits Mulligan and his colleagues at the paper against one another in a high-stakes struggle over which matters most--protecting public safety or reporting the truth. And in the end, it embroils the entire state in an angry confrontation over where justice truly lies. Providence Rag is the third novel in Bruce DeSilva’s Edgar Award-winning Mulligan series—and the first to be inspired by a true story.

“ What makes this novel so great? It’s the fact that it all seems so real. You soon forget that this is all just fiction. . . . This one puts Bruce DeSilva into Michael Connelly territory.”

-- Sons of Sam Spade website


"The difference between justice and the truth can be miles apart, as well as diametrically opposed to journalism ethics, as Bruce DeSilva succinctly shows in his third solid novel featuring Liam Mulligan, a Providence, R.I., reporter. Providence Rag is an unflinching look at how doing the right thing can have dire reverberations."

-- Oline Cogdill, one of the most respected book reviewers in the business.


“DeSilva is to Providence what James Lee Burke is to New Orleans,” and “Providence Rag is a minor masterpiece.”

-- Scott Mackay for the Rhode Island affiliate of National Public Radio


"DeSilva puts forth tough questions with no straight answers — and delivers another outstanding novel."

-- The Associated Press


"A pitch perfect, noirish throwback to newsroom tales that are a better fit for films in black and white, but which DeSilva, a former Journal reporter himself, sketches wondrously in bright and vibrant color. . . . One of the best hardboiled thrillers of this or any year."

-- Novelist Jon Land reviewing for The Providence Journal


"Providence Rag
“was inspired by Rhode Island’s notorious Craig Price murders of the 1980s. . . . DeSilva raises important issues and doesn’t resolve them easily. Highly rewarding.”

-- Kirkus Reviews


“Edgar-winner DeSilva melds moral dilemmas with a suspenseful plot in his third novel featuring Providence, R.I.–based reporter Liam Mulligan. His best yet.”

– Starred Review in Publishers Weekly


"There is real suspense here. And Mulligan’s character, played off the vicissitudes of his job, is skillfully layered and engaging."

– Starred Review in Booklist.


Providence Rag is Bruce DeSilva's best yet. He creates a hard-core, bare-knuckle page turner out of serious ethical and moral issues by following them to their wellspring in the human heart. An amazing book that should win awards.”

-- Timothy Hallinan, best-selling author of the Poke Rafferty and Junior Bender crime novels.


“If you haven't read a Mulligan novel yet, you should be ashamed of yourself. DeSilva's wise-ass cop reporter is picking up quite a following among sharp readers. Providence Rag proves once again why this fresh and funny series is one to add to the top of your list.”

-- Ace Atkins, New York Times Bestselling author of Robert B. Parker's Wonderland and The Broken Places.


“Bruce DeSilva is my favorite kind of crime writer, his voice authoritative and authentic, his characters utterly believable. In Providence Rag, he puts his talents to good use with a sprawling story that asks the true meaning of justice.”

-- Alafair Burke, author of best-selling mysteries including If You Were There.


“Taut, tense, and disturbing. DeSilva brings his reporter's perceptions, his mordant wit, and his powerful story-telling skills to this compelling and thought-provoking tale of murder, ethics, and impossible decisions.”

--  Hank Phillippi Ryan, whose thrillers have won the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark awards.


“A serial killer who makes Hannibal Lector look like Mother Theresa is about to be freed on a technicality. Liam Mulligan, Edgar Award-winning Bruce DeSilva’s wonderfully anti-authoritarian investigative reporter, is determined to stop him. Providence Rag is both a terrifying revelation of the mind of a born killer and a dramatic portrait of a newspaperman determined to do right no matter what.”

--Howard Frank Mosher, Guggenheim fellow and critically acclaimed author of Waiting for Teddy Williams.


"It's that rare novel these days that gets everything right--tone, setting, character, plot, pacing, and prose. To say that Bruce DeSilva has done just that with his latest effort, Providence Rag, would be an understatement."

-- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Freed, author of the Cordell Logan thrillers.

Providence Rag, by Bruce DeSilva

Part I
Precocious Boys

May, 1989

The child holds the Mason jar up to the light and studies the wriggling mass inside. The quivering antennae, the thrashing legs, the compound eyes, the gossamer wings folded tight against segmented green abdomens. The unmown field behind his house is alive with them. He'd spent half the morning stalking these bits of life, snatching them from the waving blades of switchgrass with his big strong hands.

On his knees now, he opens the jar, snares one with a thick finger, and screws the lid on tight. He places the prisoner on one of the flat stones that litter the field and holds it down with his left thumb. Then he reaches into the hip pocket of his jeans and extracts his 5X magnifying glass. The sun is high, and the glass focuses its wrath into a tight beam.

A wing curls into ash.

The grasshopper struggles, its six legs making a faint scratching sound as they rake the stone. The boy burns the legs off one by one, and the scratching stops. Carefully, he amputates each antenna. A brown, unblinking eye stares up at him, pleading for an end to this. He stares back, savoring the moment. Then he drags the beam across the abdomen to the eye, instantly obliterating it.

A thin curl of white smoke rises as he bores through to the knot of ganglia that passes for a brain. The boy bends close, sniffs. The aroma reminds him of meat frying in his mother’s kitchen.
With a start, he feels a swelling in his jeans.
He wonders: Am I God?


June, 1992
After her live-in boyfriend was transferred to the graveyard shift, Becky Medeiros fell into the evening habit of lounging around the house in her underwear. Or sometimes in the nude. She kept the front and side curtains drawn after dark, but the house backed up on a wooded lot, so she was often careless with the rear windows.

The neighborhood potheads had discovered her habit. After sundown, they often gathered beneath the low branches of a large white pine ten yards from her back fence to pass a joint and enjoy the show. Later, police would find a disturbance in the thick blanket of pine needles. Forty-five discarded roaches and a scattering of torn Doritos bags and Snickers wrappers told them someone had been lurking there on and off and on for weeks.

Becky was an attractive young woman. Slim waist, long muscular legs, small firm breasts. A dancer’s body. The watchers whispered crude jokes and imagined what it would be like screw her. All but one of them. He harbored a different fantasy.

It had been an unusually hot and dry Rhode Island spring; but on the evening of Friday, June 5, the temperature fell into the low sixties, and threatening clouds shimmered like embers beneath the setting sun. Shortly before ten, it began to rain. Only a few drops penetrated the pine's thick branches, but the weather had kept the other peepers away. This time, he had the hiding place all to himself.

He yanked a handkerchief from the front pocket of his hoodie, wiped raindrops from his binoculars, and raised them to his eyes. There she was, naked in the warm glow of her bedside lamp as she stretched and twisted to a yoga instructional video flashing blue on the flat-screen above her bureau. She bent at the waist now, right hand touching left ankle, her ass an offering.

From weeks of watching, he knew she rarely turned in before "Late Night" signed off. But tonight, she killed the TV after David Letterman's monologue and slipped out of the bedroom. A moment later, the bathroom light snapped on, narrow beams leaking between the cracks of the Venetian blinds.

He swept the binoculars back and forth from the bathroom to the bedroom until, ten minutes later, she reappeared wrapped in a hot pink towel. She dropped the towel to the floor, sat on the edge of her bed, and turned off the bedside lamp.

He lingered under the tree, giving her time to fall asleep. Then he laid his binoculars in the pine needles, crawled out from under the branches, vaulted her white picket fence, and crossed the wet grass to the rear door. There, an overhead lamp was burning. He reached up and gave the bulb a twist, extinguishing the light.

He tried the door. It was locked. He considered breaking a pane of glass to reach the inside latch, but that would make too much noise. Instead, he edged along the back of the house, looking for another way inside.

The kitchen window was open a crack. Perhaps Becky had forgotten to close it. Perhaps she had wanted to let the cool night air in. He pried the screen off and eased the window up. Then he sat on his haunches, removed his size-twelve Nikes, placed them in the grass, and hoisted himself into the dark house.

He landed with a thud on the dinette table, knocking the salt and pepper shakers over. They rolled off the edge and shattered. He slid off the table, got to his feet, and froze, listening to the sounds of the dark house. At first, he heard only the ticking of a clock. Then the refrigerator clicked on and hummed to itself. He broke into a nervous sweat. After three or four minutes, he was desperately thirsty.

When he was confident that Becky had not awakened, he padded across the linoleum to the refrigerator, opened the door, and saw several cans of Diet Coke, a carton of orange juice, and a sippy cup half filled with milk. He grabbed the OJ and gulped, dribbling some down the front of his hoodie.

He set the carton on the counter and had just closed the refrigerator when the bedroom door creaked. He spun toward the hallway and saw Becky standing there in the nude. Perhaps the racket he’d made had roused her after all. Or maybe she’d just gotten up to go to the bathroom. She knew who he was. She’d often seen him riding his bike through the neighborhood and throwing a football in the street.
She opened her mouth to scream.

He charged into the hallway, grabbed her by the throat, and slammed her against the wall. Her head dented the plasterboard. Stunned, she slumped to the floor. He dashed back to the kitchen, clawed through the drawers under the counter, and pulled out an eight-inch chef’s knife.

In the hallway, Becky staggered to her feet, her left temple dribbling blood. He lowered a shoulder and flew at her, hitting her the way he’d seen Andre Tippett, the New England Patriots’ all-star linebacker, T-bone running backs on TV. She went down hard, landing on her back. He pounced and raised the knife. She screamed and deflected the blade with her arms.

Becky was young and strong. She battled ferociously in that cramped space. But he outweighed her by a hundred and thirty pounds. In a minute, maybe less, she lay motionless, her breathing ragged, blood bubbling from the holes in her chest.

" Mama?"

He looked up and saw the little one standing a few feet away, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She was dressed in My Little Pony pajamas like the ones his sister used to wear. He rose to his knees, swung the knife, and cut her down. Then he turned back to Becky, stabbing with such force that the steel blade snapped off at the handle.

Becky's screams had made his ears ring in that narrow hallway. Had her cries alarmed the neighbors? He got to his feet, stepped through an archway into the living room, and padded across the carpet to the front window. Pulling the curtain aside, he pressed his forehead against the glass and peered out. Nothing was stirring.

He returned to the kitchen, drew two more knives from a drawer, and went back to work on Becky, stabbing her in the chest and abdomen long after he was certain she was dead. Finally he clambered to his feet, his face, hands, and hoodie drenched in her blood, and rinsed himself off at the kitchen sink.

Then he walked back to the hallway, stood over the bodies, unzipped his fly, and freed his erection. He spit on his right palm, stared at the woman, and moved his fist rhythmically, glorying in the power he'd felt as the knife penetrated her skin again and again. He threw back his head and moaned.

When he was done, he reached down and jerked a heart-shaped silver locket from the slim chain around Becky's neck—a keepsake to hold whenever he relived this night.

Stepping over the bodies, he entered Becky's room, tore a mint-green satin comforter from her bed, and threw it on the floor. He stripped off the matching sheet, carried it into the hallway, and draped it over the dead. Then he walked back to the kitchen and peeked out the open window. The same stillness greeted him. Satisfied that no one was watching, he shoved the dinette table aside and climbed out.
He sat on his rump in the grass, pulled off the bloody socks, and put his shoes back on, not bothering with the laces. It was raining harder now. Taking the socks with him, he sprinted across the back yard and jumped the fence. He fetched his binoculars from beneath the white pine. Then he pulled off his hoodie and did a poor job of hiding it, and his socks, cramming them under some brush in the wooded lot.
Ten minutes later, he sneaked into his family’s sleeping house and crept up the stairs to the second floor. There he showered before flopping into bed, feeling euphoric but exhausted. Clutching Becky's locket in his hand, he fell into a blissful, dream-rich sleep.

Also from Bruce DeSilva

Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva “I can't believe this is a debut -- DeSilva writes with a master's understanding of the genre. The dialogue is spot on, the humor is wry, and the world is gritty enough that I still have dirt under my fingernails. Rogue Island is a winner.”

-- Marcus Sakey, bestselling author of The Amateurs.
  Cliff Walk by Bruce DeSilva “Bruce DeSilva accomplishes something remarkable: He takes everything we love about the classic hardboiled detective novel and turns it into a story that's fresh, contemporary, yet timeless.”

-- Joseph Finder, New York Times best-selling author of Vanished and Buried Secrets.
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva “Bruce DeSilva writes a story in the tradition of Hammett and Higgins, and he writes it with the knowledge of an old-time police reporter. DeSilva knows cops, corruption in eastern cities, wiseguys, rounders, bounders, gamblers, and midnight ramblers. He writes with authority about the issues of our times, and he does it with honesty and candor. If you want a hardboiled view of how a city actually works, this is your book.”

– Mystery Writers of America Grand Master James Lee Burke.
  The Dread Line, by Bruce DeSilva "The best yet in one of my favorite series ever -- fast and funny, yet it packs a serious punch. This is hardboiled crime fiction at its best."

-- Steve Hamilton, two-time Edgar Award-winning author of "The Second Life of Nick Mason."