WHERE IT HURTS by Reed Farrel Coleman
I hadn’t read Reed Farrel Coleman before, although I was aware of his Moe Prager books and the fact that he is currently continuing Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone novels. However, I was given a copy of Where It Hurts, his first Gus Murphy novel, and I opened it up, feeling immediately as though I’d dropped into familiar territory.
Gus Murphy isn’t for the weak at heart. He’s a bleak, dark character carrying a lot of pain. That just happens to be the kind of character I can’t help but falling in love with. I’ve seen guys in real life who push through life’s adversities and somehow keep finding a reason to get up the next day. I’ve been in those circumstances before and had to do the same thing. So when I meet a kindred spirit, I’m always drawn to the story and to the struggle, in real life and in fiction.
Gus is truly a lost soul at the beginning of the novel, trying to recover from the loss of a son, his wife, and his daughter. On top of that, he’s lost his job at the NYPD and is now driving a courtesy van for a hotel where he’s living as well. One of the perks of the job. He’s buried himself deep, trying to become numb and distant from the world.
Then the past steps out to meet him and brings with it jagged pain of all that he’s lost. Tommy Delcamino is an ex-con, one that Gus helped put away while he was still working as a cop. Still, as Delcamino says, Gus was the only cop who ever shot straight with him. Delcamino has lost his son too. Somebody murdered him and left him in the woods outside of the city. Delcamino wants answers but the local police aren’t interested.
I thought that would be enough to get Gus moving, but Coleman heaped even more guilt on his hero before bringing him onto the field. After Gus turns down the job, which Delcamino was willing to pay well for, Delcamino turns up dead as well. Even though Gus tries to ignore the whole situation, he can’t. Whatever’s going on is something he can’t simply ignore. Reluctantly, he begins his investigation.
Things get really twisty really fast as Gus digs into the father and son murders. Soon he’s in way over his head, but he can’t back off. For the first time, he’s a man alone, operating against criminals without backup. I was enjoying that, but when Coleman introduces Slava, a heavy-hitting Russian who has a dark backstory only now coming to light. I love this guy! I hope the mystery isn’t stripped away too much.
The thing that really grabbed me about the novel was the first-person narrative. It’s high readable, compelling, and insightful. I didn’t feel like I was reading—I felt like Gus was sitting across from me telling his story. And as I listened, I saw life return to him, but the hurt didn’t go away. He’s a guy I’ll root for every day, and I can’t wait for the next volume.