A Scourge of Vipers, by Bruce DeSilva, A Review

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Bruce DeSilva’s Newest Novel

A Scourge of Vipers was the first book I’ve read written by Mr. DeSilva.  It won’t be the last. The title turns out to be quite fitting for the novel.  It is the fourth in the Liam Mulligan series, and the fourth book published by the acclaimed author.

The many years he spent in journalism clearly enable the author to paint a realistic view of the field and the newspaper business itself.  This entry to the series is a thoughtful, complicated, and fast moving mystery that will hold your interest and leave you wanting more.  It isn’t that often that I grow to appreciate a character as quickly as I did with Liam Mulligan.  Of course his unusual friends and associates helped the process along.

The Cast

  • Liam Mulligan, old school investigative reporter
  • Zirilli,  friend and bookie
  • Zirilli’s great nephew,  Mario, who is not happy with Mulligan
  • McCracken, Private Investigator.
  • Joseph, homeless security guard and friend
  • Fiona McNerney, childhood friend, former nun, now governor of Rhode Island
  • Yolanda, a past and perhaps present love interest
  • A plethora of bad guys, determined to get their way, at whatever cost.

The Story

Sports betting is the cause of deception, bribery and murder in this most recent book from Bruce DeSilva.

Liam’s lifelong friend, now governor of his home state, wants to legalize sports gambling to generate income the state desperately needs. That sparks interest—and greed—from a number of different corners.  Casinos, political action committees, the mob…to name a few.

Reporter Liam Mulligan is called to two separate incidents.  Each must be serious, since his failing newspaper usually prefers to keep its reporters in the office.  First, a body has been  found.  A floater.  Second, a plane crashes into a house.  Then a briefcase filled with cash goes missing.  When all of it seem to point back to the governor’s proposed bill, Liam seeks the full story.

Meanwhile, his aging bookie, Whoosh Zirilli, wants him to take over his business for him, much to the ire of his great-nephew Mario.

Before long, Mario is missing and perhaps a killer.  Or is he dead?  A state legislator is  killed, and more are approached with bribes.  And two local homicide detectives suspect Liam of murder.  By the way, where’s the money?  In this completely entertaining tale,  journalist Mulligan will put his skills to use along with his connections to figure out the truth.  Unless he is arrested first.

Plots within plots, several different puzzles going on at once, and an author who knows just how to tie them all together.  Now I can’t wait for Book Five.

Excellent Audible Selection

A Scourge of Vipers is another book that I ‘read’ through Audible, so I actually listened.  How I love that option.  Jeff Woodman is the narrator on all four books in the series.  He does a great job with it, so much so that you don’t really think about it—always a good sign.  It’s a plus too, usually, to stick to the same narrator throughout a series.  You come to associate the voice with the character. It grows on you!  If you get a chance to listen, you won’t be disappointed.  There is a sound clip right below so you can listen to a sample.

The Trouble with Big Spenders

The author takes on political funding in a clever angle.  When you can spend billions, you can not only exert enormous influence, but you can also sometimes (or often?)  bribe your way to the vote you want. It isn’t only big businesses either.  The PACs (political action committee) and super PACs that form to support their desired result are often funded by wealthy individuals.  The book will make you more aware of that.

It seems difficult to turn off their influence.  Not only do many voters take their ads at face value (without checking out any opposite opinion), but politicians themselves always need funding for reelection.  Risky for them if they go against a PAC.  It’s a scary fact of politics and the media today.

The Future of the Newspaper Industry

The condition of the newspaper industry is of importance in Mr. DeSilva’s series as well.  Also how difficult it must be for the old school reporters.

The writer covers it from  both sides.  Not only how frustrating it is for reporters, but also how difficult it is for management.  With dropping subscription numbers, with the competition on the internet, it grows more difficult to lure advertisers. With competition high online, it follows that the costs per ad would be lower.  Hard to see how that can sustain, a dilemma for all.

Knowing that, when a negative story hits the news, perhaps about the advertiser or its industry, what happens?  We know it should be reported properly, but don’t you wonder how often it is softened or information omitted?  That can have a profound effect.

If we are only hearing what editors allow, the opportunity for manipulation is constantly there.  If often done for money (or advertisers), it is easy to see how it can be used to manipulate how we view any one or anything.  If we aren’t given the full story, or both sides, we are not given the chance to reach our own conclusion.

We can see how and why it happens. The papers in general are struggling financially. Yet doesn’t that color all news?  The book made me wonder how often it happens.

Liam Mulligan, Reporter

I liked Liam Mulligan very much, more and more as the novel progressed.  What a likable character he is, trying to maintain the old school reporting standards with the new world limits.   A mystery from the point of view of an investigative reporter adds interest, since any investigating they do doesn’t have the same limitations and rules that apply to the police force.  Yet a good investigator can play a solid part in solving a crime.

Reading as he protected his sources and connections, was encouraging.  The ways he involves himself with others also made him very likable.  He is a good guy.

I’m invested now, so I am already looking forward to the next book in the series.  Knowing he could be facing a career change, I’m curious to see how it goes.  I want him to succeed. I want to see how his Rhode Island friends and associates go forward.  It is definitely one of the pleasures of a series.  To look forward to more.

The Author

From the first of his four novels, Bruce De Silva has received high marks.  Rogue Island, published in 2010, received the Edgar Award Winner for Best First Novel in 2011.  He has also won the Macavity Award, and has been a finalist for the Anthony, Shamus and Barry awards.

A journalist for over 40 years, a newspaper consultant to over  50 papers,  he clearly knows the industry and its many changes.  I’m very impressed with his ability to draw the reader into Liam’s world.  Not only at the newspaper, though that gives one much to think about, but also his thoughts and standards.  Maintaining  those standards in a world that places less value on them, is heartening.  See if you don’t want to cheer him on as well.

The Rest of the Series



Merry Citarella, often writing as Merrci, writes on a wide range of topics. Recently relocated to the Oregon Coast in the northwest United States, she frequently writes travel features on the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She specializes in health and aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, food, lifestyle, and book reviews. For more information you can see her on The Writers’Door. You can read more articles here or at her websites Mystery Suspense Reviews .

Author: Merry

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