DeSilva’s third visit to Rhode Island tracks the potentially dire consequences of trying a 15-year-old killer as a juvenile instead of locking him up and throwing away the key.
The first time Liam Mulligan (Cliff Walk, 2012, etc.) gets pulled off the sports desk at the Providence Dispatch, he’s sent out to cover the brutal murder of Becky Medeiros and her daughter Jessica, 4, in suburban Warwick. Their killer, not exactly a criminal mastermind, left so much trace evidence at the scene that it’s a simple matter to confirm that he’s the perp when Connie Stuart and her two daughters are slaughtered two years later. Mulligan, who’s made a friend and confidant of Andy Jennings, the cop in charge of the case, provides some sharp observations and asks a few good questions of his own. The result is the arrest and conviction of neighborhood teen Kwame Diggs. Tried as a juvenile, Diggs is supposed to be released when he’s 21. But he’s still in a maximum security cell 18 years later because the prison authorities have found one infraction after another to charge him with. When Edward Anthony Mason III, son of the Dispatch’s publisher, gets it into his crusading head to investigate whether the charges that have extended Diggs’ prison term are on the level, he unleashes a firestorm of protest from right-wing radio firebrand Iggy Rock, thousands of subscribers the struggling Dispatch can ill afford to lose, and of course Mulligan himself, who sees no reason that a sociopath like Diggs should ever be freed, especially now that he’s had nearly two decades to choose his next targets and reflect on the mistakes that got him caught.
DeSilva, drawing on a real-life case, pours on the ethical complications with such unrelenting suspense that you’ll be glad you don’t live in Rhode Island. Only the last few chapters are a letdown from the general excellence.