Review

Hard, Hard City

by Jim Fusilli



It is hard to believe that HARD, HARD CITY is only the fourth of
Jim Fusilli's entries in the mystery novel genre. Already
well-known for his insightful reviews and essays concerning the
music industry for the Wall Street Journal, Fusilli has
carved a separate career out of whole cloth and has done it to the
extent that it is easy to think of him first as the creator of
Terry Orr: writer, erstwhile private investigator, single father of
Bella, and widower of the late Marina. This latest novel continues
Fusilli's examination of Orr's life, his struggles with and
accommodations to post-911 Manhattan.

HARD, HARD CITY finds Orr still reeling from the revelation ---
possibly true, possibly not --- that his wife was involved with
another man at the time of her death. Orr is not obsessed with, so
much as shadowed by, the ghost of Marina and their infant son,
David, who also died. There are days, however, when the memories
and the uncertainty of what is true or untrue threaten to drown
him.

He accordingly welcomes a request from Bella's friend, Daniel Wu,
to look for a missing friend. Allie Powell has been missing from
school for weeks. He has been staying with John McPorter, a friend
of the family, in New York City during the week while attending
school and returning home to New Jersey on the weekends. McPorter
is an odd but apparently harmless soul who assures Orr that Allie
is a good boy; he doesn't connect Allie's disappearance with the
simultaneous burglary of a few hundred dollars from his safe.
Harlan Powell, Allie's father, is a high-rolling investor who has
made a number of enemies in the financial world with his
questionable business practices. Powell grudgingly retains Orr to
locate his son, an act that suddenly becomes the catalyst for the
commencement of a cycle of senseless violence.

Fusilli has become a master at blindsiding his readers. He has few
equals in this regard --- Ross Macdonald, possibly one or two
others --- and his timing is so subtle, so exquisite, that one is
compelled to turn the page while simultaneously being almost afraid
to do so. Orr's domestic life balances nicely against the grimness
of his cases, and Fusilli is wisely showing no inclination toward
keeping Bella in pigtails and anklets forever; instead, he is
letting her age in real-time between appearances in the
novels.

HARD, HARD CITY is appropriately named, a work that further
ensconces Fusilli's name and work onto the short list of the best
in the genre. If you haven't read him before, start now while his
backlist remains manageable. You'll want to catch up.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Hard, Hard City
by Jim Fusilli

  • Publication Date: September 23, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399152172
  • ISBN-13: 9780399152177