Saturday, February 6, 2016

Introducing Gus Murphy

This is the first novel in a projected new series by the very gifted writer, Reed Farrel Coleman. The protagonist is Gus Murphy, a former cop in Suffolk County on Long Island. Murphy had a great life and was perfectly content until, out of the blue, a tragedy destroyed him and blew his family apart. Now Murphy is trudging through life, caring about virtually nothing and no one. He works two crappy jobs, one as a courtesy van driver for a third-rate hotel and the other as a bouncer in the hotel's bar. He lives in a room in the hotel and his world has been reduced to this work that he performs mostly by rote and to a tiny and rapidly diminishing number of friends.

Two years into this miserable existence, Murphy is approached by a former low-life and ex-convict named Tommy Delcamino. In his earlier life, Murphy had arrested Delcamino, but even so, Delcamino insists that Murphy is the only cop he ever trusted. Four months earlier, Delcamino's son, TJ, had been tortured and killed. Like his father, the younger Delcamino had a bad reputation and was often in trouble with the law. Accordingly, the cops aren't exactly breaking a sweat in an effort to bring TJ's killers to justice--this in spite of the fact that Tommy Delcamino has given the detectives in charge of the case a number of promising leads.

Delcamino begs Murphy to investigate the murder and, for a set of complex reasons, Murphy ultimately agrees to do so. But he soon discovers that he's blundered into a very complex and dangerous set of circumstances. A lot of powerful and influential people would rather see this case die quietly and as Murphy presses ahead, it's soon apparent that his own health and well-being may be on the line as well.

The story of the down-and-out ex-cop, P.I., or other such character who reluctantly agrees to take on a difficult and dangerous case and who, by doing so, may ultimately and inadvertently find his own redemption is hardly a new one. But Reed Farrel Coleman makes it seem fresh and compelling. He writes beautifully and the characters and the setting in this story are both excellent. Coleman hooks the reader early on and makes you care very much about what might happen to Gus Murphy. This is a really strong beginning to this series and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installment.

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