Speak Ill of the Living

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Because Eddie Bourque has quit his newspaper job and is freelancing, he welcomes late-night calls to cover stories for the Associated Press. The one that sends him to police headquarters to gather information about a kidnapped business executive who had been thought dead but appears now to be alive becomes more than a simple reporting assignment. The circumstances become even more intriguing when Bourque receives a message from his older brother indicating that he knows what is behind the kidnapping. The irony of this situation is that Bourque has never met his brother Henry, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence for killing two guards during a robbery thirty years earlier.

Bourque's adventures in solving the kidnapping case lead him to a reconciliation with his estranged brother. He suddenly finds that he is not alone in wanting to solve this mystery, as he receives assistance from Henry's new wife Bobbi—they married at the prison. Why Bobbi is so eager to help quickly becomes clear: solving the kidnapping might also uncover evidence that will exonerate the elder Bourque. The task pits Bourque against the remnants of the gang that staged the robbery with his brother. These people will stop at nothing—not even murder—to find the gold that had never been recovered from the heist that landed Henry Bourque behind bars.

As he did in his Shamus Award-winning first novel Spiked (2003), Arsenault demonstrates exceptional skill at plotting, carefully planting false clues to tantalize readers into conclusions that are proven wrong in the final scenes that bring this novel to its action-packed conclusion. Arsenault's ability to write with the immediacy and vivid metaphors characteristic of the best journalists allows him to create a sense of verisimilitude for his fictional hero that makes a rather fantastic plot seem plausible.