THE WAYS OF THE DEAD
Sully Carter, a reporter with a drinking and attitude problem, hobbled by war, loss and rage, is assigned to cover the murder of a teenage daughter of a powerful judge in Washington, D.C. Three black teenagers are arrested for the slaying. But Sully, restless after a career abroad, thinks it might be related to a series of cold cases that police barely investigated, including the disappearance of a gorgeous and sexy Howard University student. But the past never dies easy, he’s drinking on the job and his judgment isn’t what it used to be. In this minor-chord view of the city, he has to confront the back-breaking line between what you think and what you know; between what you know and what you can print. Set in the last of the glory days of the American newspaper, The Ways of the Dead is a wickedly entertaining, disturbing story of race, crime, the law and the power of the media.
PRAISE & REVIEWS
“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…Meticulously plotted, fast-paced…Every character is fully fleshed out and the dialogue is pitch perfect…For mystery and crime fiction lovers, particularly fans of Elmore Leonard, to whom Tucker dedicates his book, this is a must-read.”
A whiplash smart debut from a long-standing Washington Post reporter who has seen it all and transformed his experiences into a truly promising crime novel that leaves you aching for more.
There is venality and greed at every turn in his cesspool of Clinton-era Washington. The body of the teenage daughter of a Federal judge is found in a dumpster behind a mini-mart in very much the wrong part of town. Sully Carter — a war correspondent who now finds himself back home, working news on the domestic front — is far from convinced that the three young black men who are rapidly rounded up and accused of the killing are guilty — and sets out to prove it with the help of a group of dubious characters. The result is a story which is edgy, fierce and gripping, with a fast line in neat dialogue and a suitably bleak, nuanced conclusion.
A sequel is on the way which should underline that Tucker is a fine new talent.
–The Daily Mail (U.K.)
“On the cubicle wall in Carter’s office is a map of every murder in the District in one year, categorized by colored pushpins denoting race and gender, and the Sarah Reese killing, he notices, is the third pink pin in a neighborhood and city where nearly all the other victims are black males. (The story is based on a real-life string of serial murders in Park View in the 1990s, a crime spree that went unnoticed because the victims were young women from sketchy backgrounds.)…Tucker uses his story to raise some legitimate criticisms of American media: Editors give disproportionate coverage to wealthy, white victims, and they’re quick to drop one story to move on to the next. Setting his tale in the 1990s also gives Tucker the chance to show how much newspapers have changed. The 24-hour Internet news cycle hasn’t yet taken root, tomorrow’s front page is still more important than getting the story online immediately and good reporters are dependent on door knocks, land lines and library research rather than e-mail, cellphones and Google….Tucker pulls off a neat, double-twist ending.”
–The Washington Post
“Tucker is well ahead of many of his peers, and this book is worthy of Elmore Leonard’s legacy…With equal ear for newsroom patter and street slang, Tucker has presented an exciting first novel that echoes the best writing of Pete Hamill and George Pelecanos, mixed with a bit of The Wire and True Detective.”
– Miami Herald
“By page nine of Neely Tucker’s debut novel, The Ways of the Dead, I felt an affinity with war-weary reporter Sully Carter, beginning when he launched into a diatribe about his employer-provided mobile phone: “It’s supposed to be like a perk. What it is? It’s like one of those electronic tether anklets they put on parolees.”… it’s a tense and gripping crime novel of race and power, but its true magic lies in the dialogue, which is textured and nuanced in the manner of Elmore Leonard, James Crumley or George Pelecanos. This is a very fine debut indeed, and one that begs for sequel after sequel.”
“Hooray! Another terrific writer casts off his former career—in Tucker’s case, as a Washington Post reporter—and writes a mystery that will leave readers waiting for the next in the series. His sleuth is one Sully Carter, a grizzled and burnt out correspondent who can’t quite leave his war correspondent past behind. When a prominent judge’s white daughter is killed in a predominantly black neighborhood, Sully starts doing what he does best: Investigating. What he turns up is based on a real case, the Princeton Place Murders from the 1990s, and as the truth emerges, it’s more complicated than Sully bargains for and more troublesome than the establishment might like. Gritty and masterful.”
— The Washingtonian
“Journalist-novelist Tucker has crafted an addictive, twisty, debut, proving that crimes involving politics and sex can still surprise and thrill us. The slightly detached and cynical air will resonate with George Pelecanos readers and yet there’s a whiff of Elmore Leonard, too.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“Clinton-era Washington, D.C., provides the squalid, menacing backdrop for this crisp, crafty and sharply observed debut by a seasoned reporter…(Tucker) writes with rueful authority and caustic familiarity about the District’s criminal and working classes…Tucker has a knack for ingenious plotting that jolts his narrative into unexpected directions. The shocks resound with acrid, illuminating insights into the District’s nettlesome intersections of race and class at the hinge of the millennium. Rich yet taut description, edgy storytelling, rock-and-rolling dialogue, and a deeply flawed but compelling hero add up to a luminous first novel.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“(Tucker) has a great protagonist, too, in Carter, a hard-bitten reporter carrying plenty of baggage—just right for a series lead. With the emphasis on gritty urban life in a city rife with racism and blight, the novel evokes the Washington, D.C., of George Pelecanos. This riveting debut novel should spawn a terrific series.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Foreign correspondent Tucker uses the real-life Princeton Place murders in Washington, D.C., during the 1990s as background for his exciting fiction debut….an insightful view of journalism and manipulative editors, shady politicians, and apathetic cops.”
“The Ways of the Dead is a great read. Deep characters, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a plot with as many curves as Rock Creek Parkway as it moves through the side of Washington, D.C., far away from the Smithsonian. Neely Tucker takes this novel up an even further notch with a story framed around the hot button issues of our time, including race, justice, and the media. If this is Neely Tucker’s first novel, I can’t wait for what’s coming next.”
“Tough, exciting, always intelligent, Neely Tucker’s The Ways of the Dead captures the multi-layered corruption and cynicism – and the edge-of-the-ledge danger – of a hard-nosed former war reporter digging out a serial killer in the backstreets of Washington, D.C.”
“From the powerful opening to the shocking finale, The Ways of the Dead delivers the very best in gritty, hard-edged suspense. Complex characters, taut dialogue, and a riveting plot all add up to one extremely excellent novel.”
“In a textured, wholly believable Washington, D.C., simultaneously near and far from the corridors of power, Neely Tucker, in his accomplished mystery debut, has created a gripping tale of secrets and lies, malice and mayhem…and very dead young women.”