“Where It Hurts” by Reed Farrel Coleman, Penguin Group, 368 pages, $27 hardcover
How does a parent recover when he or she loses a child? In Gus Murphy’s case, he doesn’t.
Two years after his son’s death, he’s functioning without really living. His marriage has fallen apart, and his relationship with his daughter is crumbling as well. He’s driving a van for a hotel and has left his career as a policeman in the past. But everything all starts to rush back as he’s approached by petty crook Tommy Delcamino, whom Gus used to arrest in his days on the force.
Tommy asks Gus to look into the death of his son, TJ, because he says the police aren’t giving the murder the attention it deserves.
Gus is initially angry, thinking Tommy D. is preying on the fact that they’ve both lost sons, but he eventually thaws and seeks out the man. But when he finds Tommy D. dead and several people warn him to stay away from the case, he resolves to find out what happened. The investigation will lead him into dangerous territory, but also brings a spark of life back into his robotic existence.
Reed Farrel Coleman’s books have more in common with the hard-boiled detective novels of days past than the fast-paced mysteries of today.
His classic style of noir writing and steady pacing provide a sense of nostalgia that can stray into cliché territory every now and then.
Coleman also weaves key pieces of information into the story, feeling more natural than if they were dropped at the end of chapters to set up a cliffhanger.
Gus’ stream-of-consciousness narrative gives us a good picture of the dark place he’s in, and the descriptions of his cold Long Island surroundings set a harsh scene of loneliness. He’s a character that’s easy to root for as he works to bring justice to people who have no one else to fight for them.