Cover Image: Where It Hurts

Where It Hurts

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Member Reviews

I liked Gus and Coleman's writing style, but I found the storyline to be a bit lackluster.  It was a little slow with not much happening.  However, Gus and the narrator (Ciulla) were a good team, and I'll be happy to visit with Gus again.
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Posted on MBTB's blog:

Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager series is one of my favorites. As a matter of fact, maybe I’ll reread the books in the series and post reviews. That’s a worthy goal. “Where It Hurts” introduces a new character and potentially a new series.

John Augustus “Gus” Murphy is a man in pain. He used to be a Suffolk County cop on Long Island before his teenage son’s death a couple of years ago. There is so much hair-rending in the first part of the book that I was convinced that Gus had somehow caused the death of his son or failed to rescue him. It takes a long time to learn the facts of John Jr.’s death and Gus’ role in it. “Where It Hurts” is the for-better-or-worse story of Gus’ sudden emergence from his personal valley of despair.

A two-bit punk, TJ Delcamino, has been tortured and murdered. His heart-broken father, Tommy Delcamino, a two-bit career criminal, has gone to the only honest cop he ever met, Gus Murphy. Unfortunately, Gus is no longer a cop. His sorrow has taken all incentive and color from his world. He now drives a courtesy van and acts as bouncer and house detective for a two-bit hotel near a Long Island airport and a train station. Gus has contact with lots of people — commuters, hotel staff, service people, his ex-wife — but no lasting relationships. That’s the way he likes it.

A chord is touched in Gus, but not in a good way. He chases Tommy Delcamino off. How dare he assume Gus would help him with TJ because they share a common grief. Later Gus discovers Tommy knew nothing about John Jr. That is when he begins to understand that it’s not all about him anymore. But Gus no longer has the opportunity to apologize to Tommy. Someone has murdered him.

Then “Smudge,” Tommy’s sad-sack friend, shows up with Tommy’s investigative materials and a retainer fee to hire Gus. Contrary to an overwhelming sentiment to the contrary, Gus takes on the case.

Gus soon realizes he is mired in something that reeks of rotten, slimy things, much like the sewage that littered the lot where TJ’s body was found. Is it drugs? Is it prostitution? Is it corruption? Is it unvarnished greed? Why won’t the cops, some of whom were friendly to him when he was a cop, talk to him?

Coleman’s story works its way forward as Gus meets sleazy character after sleazy character. The author paints these portraits artfully. He also depicts the poor and hard-luck parts of Long Island well. Here is the final product: a book dog-paddling in a melancholy soup.

After a choppy beginning as we struggle to learn who Gus is and why he seems to be stuck in a loop of misery, the story smoothes out as Gus takes on the investigation. When Slava, the hotel’s doorman, proves an exciting, unanticipated cohort, the story really flies.

Here is what stops me from giving this book an MBTB star — certainly not the writing, which is often made of riveting, poetic stuff — Coleman could have thrown the final twist away and still stood on a cohesive, engaging story. I also couldn’t figure out why Gus wouldn’t have to worry about future attacks on his life by the ultimate culprit’s associates. I’m hoping I just missed that point.
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John Augustus Murphy is a sad, cynical, and empty man. His life has been riddled by loss. He has lost his faith in God and his trust in people. He has also lost his career as a cop with the Suffolk County Police, his marriage, his house, but most of all, where it hurts, the sudden and senseless death of his beloved twenty-year-old son.

“I lost my faith a long time before losing my son, and his death proved me right.”

He lives his life on automatic pilot, existing rather than living – and grieving. In the two years following his son’s death, Gus has been driving the courtesy van for a small airport hotel. He lives at the hotel and works as the hotel detective, he also sometimes works security when they are busy.

When one of the criminals he once arrested comes to the hotel to see him, his life is irrevocably changed. The man tells him about the loss of his own son, another criminal. Only this man’s son was brutally murdered and the police don’t seem to be interested in putting anyone away for the crime. Their attitude seems to be ‘let the trash take care of itself’. This man, Tommy Delcamino, had always found Gus to be a ‘fair’ cop who treated him with human respect. So now, he wants Gus to investigate his son’s murder.

Gus is more than reluctant to get involved, but when Tommy Delcamino is brutally murdered, AND Gus’s premises are searched, he deems that this is now ‘personal’, and much to his own jeopardy, he investigates.

Gus has to visit some dangerous places and talk to some dangerous people to investigate the Delcamino’s deaths.

“…but if you want to learn about bottom feeders you don’t speak to the angels”.

What he learns leads to his losing faith in the very police department he once worked for and makes him reassess his own friendships.

The Long Island setting is well depicted, and it is obvious that the author is very well acquainted with the area – this is where he lives after all. The writing is astute and for the most part somber. This is essentially a ‘hard-boiled’ detective novel with a ‘noir’ feel. I think it will be enjoyed by those who enjoy this genre and follow the television shows “Ray Donovan”, “Bosch”, and the like. I think men will appreciate it more than woman, though anyone who enjoys the works of Lee Child, Michael Connelly, or Dennis Lehane will likely appreciate his work.

I enjoyed “Where it hurts“, but I didn’t love it. What I did love was the author’s writing. He has a knack for cutting to the heart of the matter with a clever turn of phrase.

“Where it hurts” is the first novel in the author’s Gus Murphy series. The second Gus Murphy novel, “What you break” is due to be published in February 2017.

My rating: 3.5 stars rounded up for NetGalley.
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