Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review ~ WHERE IT HURTS by Reed Farrel Coleman

Where it Hurts (Gus Murphy Novel, #1)
by: Reed Farrel Coleman
Series: Gus Murphy
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Penguin ~ G.P. Putnam’s Son

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.

What’s not to love about a book that depicts an individual’s path to enlightenment and salvation?  Where it Hurts may have mainly been about solving a murder but that’s not what made me keep reading.  The more intriguing story was about how the main character was able to bring himself back from the brink of emotional suicide due to the surprise death of his oldest child two years ago.  Note that this is not a feel good story. There are plenty of body bags to be filled, not to mention police corruption, drugs, and the struggle with religious faith.

Johnathan Augustus “Gus” Murphy is a retired Suffolk County Police Officer.  For the past two years, he has been mourning the death of his son, John Jr.  John Jr died of a heart condition on the basketball court when he was just twenty-years-old.  That immediately prompted the gradual implosion of Gus’ marriage as well as the moral decay of his daughter.  Gus is currently toiling away as a hotel shuttle driver and part-time bouncer/detective.  All of this changes when Gus is approached by a low level criminal named Tommy D looking to get justice for his brutally murdered son TJ. Tommy had approached the cops but has gotten the impression that they could care less about what happened to his prodigal son.  After being warned by several cops not to get involved, Gus decides to take the case if for no other reason than to understand why he is being warned off at every stage.

Gus was a great cop and would have had a great career had it not been for his loss.  It doesn’t take long for his inquiries to lead to more deaths and death threats by both cops and criminals.  Gus’ resilience and reflection drives the story.  The fact that it’s told in first person, makes it impossible not to feel Gus’ pain and his transformation.  Gus not only lost faith in himself, he lost faith in God and he happens to have a former priest as his confidante.  There’s also a boxer turned drug dealer, cop turned drug mule, and a doorman who must have been KGB to round out the diverse cast of characters.  Gus outshines them all with his quick wit, fearless demeanor, and engaging narrative.  The author did a great job of making Gus come off to be an everyman who puts his life on the line to gain both justice and redemption.  He even meets a couple of possible love interests along the way.

**Received a copy from Penguin: G.P. Putnam’s Sons in exchange for an honest unbiased opinion.**

Rating: 4

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