This week I have selected Closing Time by Jim Fusilli. I came to this series in the fourth book having been asked to read that one for Jeff Cohen when he was running The Mystery Morgue (a great review site still on hiatus but still online). I enjoyed the book so much, I had to make sure to go back and read them from the beginning. Below is the original review in all its glory written when I was a little thinner and a bit younger.
The series opens with Closing Time and it is in this book we meet many of the principal characters. Terry Orr is mourning the violent passing of his wife Marina and their baby boy as well as dealing with thoughts of vengeance and retaliation against the man he believes is responsible. Since the police have been unable to help, Terry has put his successful writing career on the backburner and is aggressively learning how to be a private investigator. He believes by doing so he can achieve his goal of apprehending the man responsible for the virtual destruction of his family. Some would say he also put on the backburner his beautiful 12-year-old daughter, Gabriella (affectionately nicknamed “Bella”), but he would strongly disagree.
He would argue that he is dealing with things as best as he can. That is all he can do, day-to-day, as he adjusts but he sees Marina and the baby symbolically in everything around him. He certainly does when he sees Judith Henley Harper and their chance meeting on a New York City street is another dig into his soul. Harper used to be his wife’s agent as Marina painted beautiful pictures that sold and sold very well. Thanks to her paintings and Terry’s own book sales, money still isn’t an issue in their home. The last thing he wants to do is to go to the old art gallery as he will be forced to confront memories of happier times and the sadness of today. But that is exactly what Harper wants Terry and Bella to do, as there will be a showing of a new artist in a few days. Bella who has been after her father to write again, to get out and live again, thinks it is a wonderful idea. Before long, commitments are made and they go to the showing.
Which almost proves fatal as a bomb explodes during the show seriously injuring Harper who is saved only by Terry’s quick thinking in the aftermath. Harper unknowingly becomes a client for Terry as he launches a personal investigation into who did it and why. He also takes on another client, this time in the form of an elderly dead man, when he launches an investigation into the murder of Cabdriver Aubrey Brown. Like the Harper case, it became personal for entirely different reasons after finding the man dead in his livery cab. As he works two very divergent and difficult cases, he begins to see commonalities in both as well as links to himself while dealing with the challenges of moving on and being a good father.
This first novel lays an extensive foundation of the series with the introduction of so many of the continuing secondary characters. Told exclusively through Terry’s viewpoint, the reader sees his world as he sees it and through judicious use of dialogue how others see him. Unlike so many novels today that shift through various points of view, a reader of this novel is immersed deeply into Terry’s world and never once jarred out of it over the course of the 275-page book.
While the psychological component of the past and those issues as well as his resulting emotions are a major theme of the work, the author does not let that interfere with the twin case storylines. Instead, the thematic elements are balanced with the cases and current day life issues in such away to not only further round out the characters but to move the story forward. Not an easy task but one the author does seamlessly in page after page.
After you have had your fill of the summer beach books, take a look at this one for some mystery meat. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
By Jim Fusilli
G. P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN # 0-399-14793-4
Kevin R. Tipple © 2005