Thriller returns readers to era on cusp of webNeely Tucker’s debut “The Ways of the Dead: A Novel” is an utterly thrilling mystery set in Washington, D.C., in the late 1990s, just before the Internet and the rise of smartphones changed the landscape of print journalism.
Sarah Reese, the teenage daughter of a powerful D.C. judge, is murdered, her body discarded in a dumpster behind a corner shop. Three black kids are arrested and the case against them looks promising, but investigative journalist Sully Carter, who has been curating a map of homicides in the area for several years, thinks her death might be connected to a handful of unsolved cases.
Carter is a recognizable type, a surly rebel who prizes his story above all. He was a war correspondent in Bosnia and is still struggling with physical and emotional wreckage from that period. His investigation is complicated by an antagonistic relationship with Judge Reese, one that threatens Carter’s search for the truth.
It all plays out in a meticulously plotted, fast-paced narrative that vividly renders the D.C. setting and taps into the socioeconomic inequity that hinders so many criminal cases from attaining closure. Every character is fleshed out and the dialogue is perfect.