The smallest state bursts with crime, corruption, wisecracks and neo-noir atmosphere in DeSilva’s blistering debut.
Someone’s set seven fires in the Mount Hope section of Providence. Arson for profit is all too common in the city’s history, but these buildings were owned by different people and insured by different companies. So Ernie Polecki, indolent Chief Arson Investigator, and his incompetent assistant Roselli, the mayor’s cousin, assume that they’re the work of a firebug. So do the DiMaggios, the vigilante crew who patrol the nighttime streets with baseball bats. But not seen-it-all reporter Liam Mulligan. His festering ulcer, estrangement from his harpy wife Dorcas and romance with his young Princeton-trained colleague Veronica Tang, who won’t have sex with him till he gets tested for HIV, haven’t absorbed all his energy. Shrugging off the insistence of city editor Ed Lomax that he file a story on a dog who ran across the country from Oregon to rejoin his relocated owners (a hilarious episode that shows just how desperate his professional situation is), Mulligan homes in on the developing story. His interest is fueled by the number of interested parties he just happens to be close to—from his prom date Rosella Morelli, now Battalion Chief of the fire department, to his burned-out bookie, Dominic “Whoosh” Zerilli—and by the arsonist’s apparent determination to torch every structure in Rhode Island’s capital. At length the mounting toll includes homes, storefronts, people and Mulligan’s questionable peace of mind. When the lead he’s supplied investigators goes sour and his own life is threatened, he has no choice but to trust the cub reporter he’s been saddled with—the publisher’s son, whom he calls Thanks-Dad—and the mobsters who’d be perfectly willing to set fires themselves, but who draw the line at killing women and children.
Mulligan is the perfect guide to a town in which the only ways to get things done are to be connected to the right people or to grease the right palms.