The Ways of the Dead – Neely Tucker

This is a piece of crime fiction set in the days before mobile phones became ever present, in the parts of Washington that the tourists do not visit. The story starts with the discovery of a girl’s body in a dumpster. She was the daughter of a prominent and powerful judge – in the area to attend a dance class – and apparently killed after entering a nearby convenience store, while waiting for her lift. The police go into action and arrest three black kids who were the last people known to have seen her. Sully Carter, a local journalist with connections in the area, and having had a previous run-in with the judge, is not convinced the case is so open and shut. He starts his own investigation.

Neely Tucker is an experienced journalist, and puts that background to good use in setting the scene, and delivering the story. The strands of racial tension, urban deprivation, criminal sociology, power politics, and newshounds on the hunt for a scoop, are expertly woven into an engrossing, believable, and entertaining read.

The central character is well portrayed, as is the local crime boss. The relationship between these two is one of the highlights of the book, with some sharp dialogue, and interesting encounters. The setting and atmosphere are thoroughly worked at to produce a real sense of the time and place. The plot has its twists, and the pacing does a great job of maintaining the tension. The writing is clear and expressive with little or no indulgences by way of flowery passages to establish the writer’s credentials in some way.

Looking back, it’s difficult to find something I didn’t like, or even something I felt that did not work. No, this was a terrific read and is highly recommended. I’ll be looking out for more from this author.