Mysterious Book Report Cliff WalkCliff Walk by Bruce DeSilva

Forge, $24.99, 318 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-3237-0

While the daily papers are in trouble, the weeklies are just fine at present, as they’re vehicles for hometown news and advertising and operate on a skeletal budget, dependent on volunteerism to put out each edition.  The plain truth of the matter is that all of the downsizing and bankruptcies have put a helluva lot of writers and photographers out of work.  But, it’s not all bad news . . . because some of those writers are putting their skills to work in other ways and are doing some outstanding work.  This week’s Mysterious Book Report is a case in point; as well as a great chance to get in on the ground floor of an exceptional writer whose work is already recognized: his first novel won an Edgar.

Cliff Walk by Bruce DeSilva is by all accounts exemplary hard-boiled crime-fiction.  At the same time, it’s an excellent account of a seasoned reporter struggling to keep his job on a dying newspaper, something the author did for forty-one years.

Cliff Walk is set in Providence, Rhode Island and told in the first person by a serial character named Liam Mulligan, an old-fashioned investigative reporter.

Because prostitution had been legalized in Rhode Island, Mulligan is chasing the threads of a story about the governor taking payoffs to prevent the law allowing it from being overturned.  At the same time, pieces of children begin showing up in garbage used to feed pigs at a commercial farming operation and the body of one of the biggest pornography producers is found at the base of a cliff . . . someone Mulligan had seen whispering in the governor’s ear at a society party the night before.  He senses a much-larger story is at hand, and an odyssey begins that will take him deep into the sex business . . . and leave him questioning the moral values he was brought up with.  This one is a burner.  It left me craving more and sorry to see the last page turn up.  DeSilva, like Leonard, Connelly, and James Lee Burke, is on my Don’t Miss list.  I’m going to find a hardcover first edition of Rogue Island, Bruce DeSilva’s debut, and put it on the shelf with all the other crime-fiction giants.  He’s that good.


John Dwaine McKenna