Murder, D.C. – Neely Tucker Review

murder-dc-coverReleased: July 2015

In the explosive sequel to The Ways of the Dead, homicide reporter Sully Carter finds himself in some even stickier situations. Tucker’s follow-up crime novel takes place a few months after the Sarah Reese case, and unsolved murders in Washington are still the norm. On a pleasant spring day, tourists on a boat trip spot a body floating in the water, and the deceased man is identified as Billy Ellison, part of one of the wealthiest families in Washington.

Frenchman’s Bend (a.k.a. ‘the Bend’) is a desolate stretch of land in the city tainted by its dark history of slavery. The Bend formerly held slave pens and has since been abandoned; now it’s a place inhabited by drug dealers and prostitutes. Shootings at the Bend are all too common and don’t warrant much police attention since witnesses aren’t willing to come forward about what they’ve seen. However, Sully’s personal filing system documenting killings comes in especially handy for this particular mystery. He’s unsettled when he finds that there are almost 50 unsolved murders of black men at the Bend spanning a five-year period, and he names the area “the murder capital of the murder capital”.

Yet again, Sully is doubtful of the police’s assumptions about Billy’s death and meets with Billy’s bereaved mother, Dolores. She insists Billy had problems with drugs but is reluctant to reveal too much about him because of the family’s good reputation. Sully discovers Dolores disapproved of Billy’s sexuality and they allegedly had a serious argument shortly before he died. Dolores’ lawyer and employer Shellie Stevens is dangerously powerful, and his influence causes many problems for Sully’s investigation. The affair becomes fishier when Sully talks to other people who knew Billy, and none of the information he gathers seems to add up. To complicate matters even further, he gets caught up in Sly Hastings’ deadly business.

Sully faces the same barriers time and time again when writing for the paper, but somehow deals with people slamming doors in his face, hesitant witnesses, and those who tell him downright lies. His determination to uncover the truth often comes at a great price, but no matter the personal cost, he never gives up on a job. Being held at gunpoint while finding material for a report is just another day at the office for him. His previous experience as a correspondent in war-torn countries taught him some handy skills, but the risky and fast-paced nature of his profession does take its toll. He still relies on alcohol and throws himself into his work to keep a lid on his painful memories, but until he begins to take his therapy seriously, he won’t learn to cope with the horrors of his past. In this installment of the series, it becomes easier to like Sully because we learn his history and understand why he is the way he is.

Murder, D.C. is another excellent offering from Neely Tucker; his style and characters are simply engrossing. Here there are even more liars to expose, more puzzles to solve and more interesting characters to enjoy.

★★★★