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Hard Hard City Hardcover – September 23, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
In Fusilli's fourth entry in this complex, character-driven crime series, Terry Orr, single parent and occasional private detective, is more analytical and less self-absorbed than he was in 2003's Tribeca Blues. Daniel Wu, the appealing friend of Orr's precocious teenage daughter, Bella, asks him to find the missing Allie Powell, a student at Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology. Orr, guilty about the lack of time spent with Bella and still haunted by the deaths four years earlier of his wife and son, agrees to look for Allie. What initially appears to be a simple search for a wayward teenager evolves into a byzantine trail of theft, violence, murder, blackmail and politics. Fusilli's themes echo those of his mentors, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald and Robert B. Parker: wealth engenders dishonesty and corruption and, as with the latter two, neglected children. It's not hard to identify the culprits here, though their motives are only slowly revealed. Fusilli is a serious novelist who excels in creating a noirish view of Manhattan and strong characters whose relationships continue to evolve with each book.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
The multi-talented Fusilli, a music critic for The Wall Street Journal and NPR, is just as gifted at creating his own work as he is at dissecting that of others. With Hard, Hard City, Fusilli brings back Terry Orr, last seen in 2003s Tribeca Blues. Critics praise the nuance with which Fusilli imbues Orrthe character is layered like a human being, not a pulpy gumshoeand the accuracy with which he captures New York Citys dark underbelly. A few blanch at the plots twists and turns, however, believing they skid into B-movie territory. Overall, most strongly recommend Fusillis novel to both mystery fans and those who usually eschew the genre. As The Washington Post notes, "If you have fallen into the habit of reading the same favorites over and overGrisham, Grafton, Sandford, whateverbranch out a bit. Live dangerously!"
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
For five years, Terry Orr sought to find a mentally ill musical prodigy, believing he was the killer who cost Orr his wife and son, only to learn that his wife, an Italian-born artist, was the impetus for the fatal occurrence, betraying Orr on two levels. In this fourth, and so far, last, of Jim Fusilli's mystery novels featuring the writer-turned-private investigator, Orr searches for a missing teenager at the request of one of his daughter's high school friends. The young boy who has disappeared is a sensitive, scared child with a talent for fashion design, burdened by a white collar criminal for a father, and a deceitful and devious mother. An envelope is missing from a safe, as well as a small amount of money. Somebody wants to recover what was taken from the safe, and desperately. And it isn't about the chump change. There may be something in the envelope too, that might wreck the budding political career of Orr's friend who is thinking of running for Congress.
A caveat here, if I'm allowed to make one. While this can be read as a stand alone novel, it would be wise to read the Orr books in sequential order because these are not just crime novels, they are gripping sagas of a man over a five year period, and the reader will be more fully satisfied if that route is taken.
In investigating the whereabouts of the missing boy, Orr finds himself in a New Jersey suburb where law enforcement is under the thumb of the father. There is an inordinate amount of violence within the story. A kindly and religious man who befriended the youngster is thought to have the goods, and meets an agonizing fate. Orr himself is run off the road once, beaten another time, and winds up in the hospital twice. An ex-con, the one who first injured Orr, somehow survives a shooting and a plunge to the ground, and comes after Orr again.
Orr finds the boy and shelters him with a solid citizen, but is not satisfied with just that. There are a lot of bad actors here, and he seeks justice, determined in the same way as he was when he was seeking to avenge his own tragedy.
All the while, you can see that Terry Orr still agonizes inside himself. He has a girlfriend of sorts, Julie, smart, pretty and family-oriented, but he does not know how to react to her. She tells him she loves him. He stays mute. He can't hold her while she is sleeping. He refuses to meet her family. His daughter Bella becomes close to her, he shrugs it off. Orr does not use Julie as a plaything, he's not cold or cruel, he's just stuck in neutral. Maybe the lady expects too much, for it's only a few months since Orr found out the truth about his wife and son, and it is devastating, and would be to anyone. But she is almost saintlike in her patience.
As with all the Orr books, there is no happy ending. Unfortunately for those of us who have enjoyed the series immensely, Fusilli has not written another novel featuring the character in a decade. Perhaps because the reasons for the death of Orr's wife and baby were revealed, Fusilli could not, or decided not, to move the character forward, concerned he would become repetitious. Then again, the books might not have moved off the shelves fast enough.The genre is so crowded with authors, from the great to the hack, that it sometimes takes a new writer time to find real success. Fusilli's website does not even refer to the Orr books, and he is undoubtedly the best mystery writer not to have a biography on Wikipedia. But, if book sales were based on merit rather than on publicity machines, Hard Hard City, as well as Closing Time, A Well-Kept Secret and Tribeca Blues would have been snapped up the way soda pop sells on a hot day. Fusilli has now written three other novels. Let's hope he is no longer a well-kept secret.
While slowly working his way through his own internal monsters, Orr roams New York and its satellites in a wide-ranging effort to find a missing Allie Powell, a noticeably talented student at the Fashion Institute. The search brings Orr into contact with a whole host of minor characters, some of who are monsters. Some of them appear and disappear in abrupt and unsettling manner. With almost no exceptions, these minor but important characters are quirky, unusual, memorable, and vital to the story. They propel the action forward, offer rhythmic counterpoints, and when Orr probes far enough to discover all manner of corruption and official malfeasance, some of them turn lethal. Orr then finds himself a target for murder.
In many dark detective novels, the protagonist is mired in such muck and corruption that everyone he or she encounters is guilty of many illegal and morally repugnant acts, and while that's true of any number of the characters in this novel, there are leavening aspects in the sub-plots which not only add balance to the life of this novel and of the characters, but change the rhythms and the light in such a way that every so often we nod and smile and think that the author has got it just right.
Author Fusilli's ear for dialogue, particularly among the teen-agers who have their own agenda and thus their own sub-plot quite apart from their concern for the missing Allie, is quite remarkable. His writing style lends itself to the changes in conversational styles among the characters and his eye for the small detail which brings us smack into the scene is excellent.
In the last analysis, this is a novel about two quite different sets of family relationships and the damage and the nurturing which affect attitudes and outcomes in profound and wonderful ways. Enjoyable, thoughtful and intense, HARD, HARD CITY is a novel to be savored.