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Magic City: A Novel (Thorn Mysteries) Hardcover – March 6, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the fast, entertaining 14th novel from Edgar- and Shamus-winner Hall (after 2005's Forests of the Night), the sharp-witted, multitalented Key Largo beach bum, Thorn, follows his girlfriend, Alexandra, to Miami, where he's caught in the violence whirling around a decades-old photograph taken during the 1964 Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston heavyweight boxing championship. After Thorn is threatened by two Cuban-American men looking for Alexandra's father, he starts investigating and in short order uncovers evidence of a plot to destroy all copies of the photo—and, if necessary, kill anyone who owns or has access to the prints. As Alexandra's father—a retired Miami cop as well as an old friend—is one such person, Thorn naturally takes a personal interest in stopping the men. While Thorn is no Travis McGee (John D. McDonald holds the edge in depictions of sharp-witted Florida beach bums), Hall offers lively characters, livelier dialogue and an excellent depiction of contemporary south Florida. 75,000 first printing; author tour. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Give Thorn credit. He's trying--trying to make accommodations with the modern world, anything to demonstrate to crime-scene photographer Alexandra Rafferty that he is committed to their relationship. Hence his radical decision to stay with Alex's Alzheimer's-afflicted father in Miami while she attends a seminar. But the "ragged, hustling pulse of Miami" does crazy things to Key Largo recluse Thorn, making his "hypersensitive antennae" gyrate like an overheated Geiger counter. It's not paranoia this time, though, as Thorn stumbles into the middle of a crime spree prompted by a black-and-white photograph taken during the 1964 Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston heavyweight-championship fight in Miami. The bad guys want the photo, a gift from the photographer to Alex's father, and are willing to do whatever needs doing to get it. Thorn starts out as he always does, merely trying to protect his loved ones, but eventually, inevitably, defense changes to offense: he knew the "feel of the tipping point--when his trot became a gallop, the gallop grew to a crazy, hurtling rush, and by God, once again he found himself sprinting over the suicidal edge." Hall continues to explore the ever-intriguing psychodynamics of his unconventional hero, but he also adds a new dimension to the series with the fascinating look at Miami in the 1960s. Not since the superb stand-alone thriller Hard Aground (1993) has Hall delved so deeply into the fetid foundation on which contemporary South Florida was built. Another outstanding chapter in one of the genre's most consistently first-rate series. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Thorn Mysteries (Book 7)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312271794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312271794
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James W. Hall is the author of 18 novels, 14 of which feature Thorn, the off-the-grid loner who lives a primitive existence in Key Largo, Florida. Thorn and his friend Sugarman, an African-American PI, team up to solve exotic crimes from animal smuggling to piracy to kidnapping to espionage. He has won the Edgar Award and the Shamus and several of his novels have been optioned for film.

His most recent Thorn novel is The Big Finish (December 2014.)

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on May 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Magic City is significant not only for James W. Hall's seductive storytelling, but also because it represents a milestone of sorts, marking Hall's twentieth year as a novelist. Yes, fans, it's been twenty years since the superlative Under Cover of Daylight, which, by the way, featured the same protagonist as Magic City, the enigmatic Thorn. Oh how time flies when you're having fun...

This time out, the mayhem is triggered by a forty-year old photograph, a picture of then Mayor of Miami Beach Stanton King and his guests in the audience of the 1964 prizefight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston. Its reappearance at a retrospective of the photographer's work sends certain parties into a panic, causing them to trigger a search for all extant copies. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for action/thriller fans, one of those copies belongs to the father of Thorn's paramour Alexandra, retired cop Lawton Collins. Pulled into the matter by circumstance, Thorn meets lethal force with equally lethally force in an attempt to protect his loved ones.

Fast paced, harrowing, and thoroughly compelling, Hall's fourteenth novel proves once again that Miami Beach is still a fertile breeding ground for thrillers, as the author holds a mirror up to the last forty years of the city's history, even as he puts his series character Thorn through some very demanding paces. Hall's regular readers and fans of writers as diverse as John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, Randy Wayne White, James O. Born and Tim Dorsey will no doubt enjoy this offering.
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Format: Hardcover
On February 25, 1964, Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston. In Miami, Florida, a 12-year-old boy named Manuel Ricardo Morales, known as Snake, listens excitedly to the radio transmission of the fight. Originally from Cuba, Snake and his family came to Miami to elude the Fidel Castro regime. On this night, most of the members of the Morales family are killed, as Snake sees who he believes to be Castro's hit men enter his home and leave him an orphan. Although he fights back valiantly --- like his hero, Cassius Clay --- Snake also loses his beloved girlfriend, Carmen, to these thugs.

A photograph of the fight becomes critical to the plot from this point forward --- because sitting in row three of that picture is the man responsible for these horrific murders. A now-grown-up Snake discovers that Lawton Collins is in possession of a copy of the photograph and goes to Lawton's house to retrieve it. There, he and his friend find Thorn Truman, our protagonist, who is engaged to Alexandria Collins. "He would find the photo, decipher its meaning, and then do what was necessary, accomplishing each step with dispassionate focus. As Cassius had fought. Aloof, above the fray, deliberate, calculated, and merciless."

Lawton Collins is a terrific character. A retired cop, with a great sense of humor and irony, he is not a fan of Thorn dating his daughter. "It's about time she got back," Lawton said. "Leaving her old man in the hands of an unreliable doofus, what kind of daughter would do that to her defenseless old dad."

As a highly valued CIA operative, Pauline Caufield's role in maintaining a high-profile manufacturing executive cover provides readers with a second plot. The two storylines come together with the significance of the Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston photo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Chips on January 13, 2011
Format: Audio CD
This may be a decent detective read, but honestly, it's hard to fight through to the substance in audio format. The Publisher's Weekly review above has it right-on; the narrators voice is totally unsuited for the genre, but that's only part of it -- he doesn't do ethnic or female voices well, and mispronounces Meyer Lansky's name as "Mayer" Lansky throughout. This gets especially dicey when he mentions "Mayer" and Miami's MAYOR in the same sentence, which happens frequently. At one point the narrator even mixes his attempts at a woman's voice with a male's during rapid back-and-forth dialogue -- yikes! To top that off, the reader's default accent -- whatever it is -- is sadly reminiscent of the narrator voice in Edward Wood's "Plan 9 from outer space."

This is my first Hall novel, and he's no James Lee Burke; even under the bad narration there's too much overwriting, too much explanation about feelings or thoughts we can supply for ourselves. The protagonist, Thorn, is another vagrant unarmed bad-a** with no address like Jack Reacher in the Lee Child novels -- what is the rationale for such crime solvers? Why not give them a little .22 to carry? Anyway -- I have a long commute and listen to a lot of these kinds of novels, and would like to give the author another chance... I believe Will Patton has narrated one of Hall's novels on CD -- now, THAT would be the ticket!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Richard J. Beck on April 30, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Magic City is a fun read from beginning to end, as are all of James W. Hall's books. Really, the core of a James W. Hall book is the portrayal of the central character - in this case, Thorn. Thorn is a person who is very genuine and easy to relate to. One can feel his pain, his anger, and admire his willingness to take a stand on behalf of justice. In this book's case, justice is about all that Thorn is able to gain, but, as with all his books, that is sufficient to leave one with a very good feeling for having read it, and looking forward to the next. Dr. Richard Beck
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