First of all, if you have not read Jim Fusilli's CLOSING TIME and A WELL-KEPT SECRET, please stop reading this right now, obtain those books, read them, and come back. I'll be happy to wait.
Thank you. TRIBECA BLUES is the third of Fusilli's novels to feature Terry Orr. Orr is by turns a novelist, an erstwhile pro bono private investigator and occasionally hapless father --- a man quietly but severely damaged by the death of his wife and infant son. You can probably experience TRIBECA BLUES without reading CLOSING TIME and A WELL-KEPT SECRET, but sledding through TRIBECA BLUES is a bit easier if you read its predecessors first. You also will be able to fully appreciate how good Fusilli has been right out of the gate and how he seems to be developing into such a great writer that we may need to start creating new adjectives to describe what he is doing.
TRIBECA BLUES begins with Orr and Bella, his (precocious, but not overly so) 15-year-old daughter gently interacting, a scene that is a prelude to the death of a close friend of Orr. Orr's friend leaves him a bequest and a request, one that takes Orr, Bella and their friends to New Orleans for a funeral and the beginning of a quest to bring Orr's friend the justice that was denied him during his life. While in New Orleans, Orr is advised that the mother of Raymond Weisz, the man suspected of murdering Orr's wife and son, has passed away. Orr immediately returns to New York City to attend the funeral, believing that Weisz will be compelled to attend his mother's funeral, if only to assure himself that she is dead. The funeral becomes a catalyst for Orr's discovery that everything he knew about his wife and her death seems to be dreadfully, horribly wrong. It also dovetails into Orr's quest on behalf of his late friend.
All is told before the backdrop of New York City, a place that Orr (and Fusilli) knows quite well. Orr in fact personifies the city, as both are badly damaged by tragedy. Both are surviving, existing and even to some extent thriving, but forever damaged and forever changed in ways both known and yet to be. TRIBECA BLUES answers some questions and raises new ones. The only constants for Orr and his city are sorrow and hope.
Fusilli is simply incredible. He never goes for the easy shot, choosing instead to quietly aim for the moon and stars and hitting them every single time. His intimate knowledge of his locales is not limited to New York City either. While his characters journey to the French Quarter during their New Orleans visit, Fusilli wisely pulls back from making the area the focal point of their business, focusing instead on The Warehouse and Garden Districts. Fusilli's reference in TRIBECA BLUES to Meyer the Hatter --- a fedora shop tucked away on St. Charles Street --- demonstrates not only a knowledge of but also a love of New Orleans as he captures a detail that only those who know the city well would appreciate.
Fusilli is that rare writer who both created and fulfilled the promise of greatness with his first novel. TRIBECA BLUES continues the fulfillment of that promise and the ongoing creation of a new legend. Very highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 9, 2003