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
-- 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
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
Rag “was inspired by Rhode Island’s notorious
Craig Price murders of the 1980s. . . . DeSilva raises important
and doesn’t resolve them easily. Highly rewarding.”
“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
"There is real suspense here. And Mulligan’s character,
played off the vicissitudes of his job, is skillfully layered and
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
authentic, his characters utterly believable. In Providence Rag, he
puts his talents to good use with a sprawling story that asks the true meaning
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
tale of murder, ethics, and impossible decisions.”
-- Hank Phillippi
Ryan, whose thrillers have won the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and Mary Higgins
“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.
Rag, by Bruce DeSilva
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
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
frying in his mother’s kitchen.
With a start, he feels a swelling in his jeans.
He wonders: Am I God?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.