Top positive review
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR'S PRIVATE PAIN PERSISTS
on September 20, 2013
What happens to a man who finds out his governing obsession for personal justice turns out to misdirected, and he learns that the loss of two loved ones was caused by personal betrayal? Does he gradually return to a normal life? Or does he still feel too jaundiced, too withered, too inadequate, to defeat his inner demons?
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.