Title: Where It Hurts
(Gus Murphy #1)
Author: Reed Farrel Coleman
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Rating: 3 Stars
From the critically acclaimed and award-winning author comes a gritty, atmospheric new series about the other side of Long Island, far from the wealth of the Hamptons, where real people live—and die.
Gus Murphy thought he had the world all figured out. A retired Suffolk County cop, Gus had everything a man could want: a great marriage, two kids, a nice house, and the rest of his life ahead of him. But when tragedy strikes, his life is thrown into complete disarray. In the course of a single deadly moment, his family is blown apart and he is transformed from a man who believes he understands everything into a man who understands nothing.
Divorced and working as a courtesy van driver for the run-down hotel in which he has a room, Gus has settled into a mindless, soulless routine that barely keeps his grief at arm’s length. But Gus’s comfortable waking trance comes to an end when ex-con Tommy Delcamino asks him for help. Four months earlier, Tommy’s son T.J.’s battered body was discovered in a wooded lot, yet the Suffolk County PD doesn’t seem interested in pursuing the killers. In desperation, Tommy seeks out the only cop he ever trusted—Gus Murphy.
Gus reluctantly agrees to see what he can uncover. As he begins to sweep away the layers of dust that have collected over the case during the intervening months, Gus finds that Tommy was telling the truth. It seems that everyone involved with the late T.J Delcamino—from his best friend, to a gang enforcer, to a mafia capo, and even the police—has something to hide, and all are willing to go to extreme lengths to keep it hidden. It’s a dangerous favor Gus has taken on as he claws his way back to take a place among the living, while searching through the sewers for a killer. -Goodreads
While it is true that Where It Hurts is a very well written mystery. It has Achilles heels that, though initially minor, become more of a hindrance to the story over time.
Cases In Point
Leading man Gus Murphy, has lost everything. His home, his career as a police officer, as well as his will to go on in any way that is truly productive. Due to the sudden death of his son John Jr.
Though he is constantly saying that he doesn't want his friends and acquaintances to see him through the telescope of his loss; every interaction that he has throughout the story is in some way related to said loss.
So what starts out for the reader as a very effective emotional connection between one's self and Gus, soon becomes a tired diatribe of... "My son died so A." "My son is gone so B."
Making matters worse for Gus, is the fact that the person seeking his help, also lost his son. Horrifically!
Not to worry though, other people, who are not children die too.
Interestingly enough, things take a much needed turn for the better in most respects after:
A. Gus's would be client is himself found dead.
B. All of the evidence, as well as the money that said client had been set to hand over to Gus finds it's way to him.
C. Everyone with with knowledge of the case warns Gus away.
Then things just become a never ending stream of shady characters, motives, cover ups, and very hairy near misses for our fledgling PI. Until...surprise... surprise...he solves the case.
The myriad of characters and the various scenarios within which they function are what make this novel readable.
Although, the character list does get a bit long at a little over half the book.
Because this is a first book in a series, and because Gus truly seems to turn a corner for the better in all aspects of his life by book's end. It is very safe to say that this series should have some of the issues found in this book worked out by book two.
If you like your gumshoes flawed but likable, and your plots as twisted as a New York pretzel. This is your mystery.