Where It Hurts (A Gus Murphy Novel) - Reed Farrel Coleman

When we meet Gus Murphy, he's a broken man living & working at a third rate hotel. He used to be a happily married cop, content with his lot in life but that was before. Before his son died, before the divorce & before he left the job. Two years on, he's still smothered by the overwhelming loss of everything that mattered & each day is a struggle to just breathe.

Tommy Delcamino is a reformed criminal familiar with the pain of losing a child. Four months ago, his son TJ was beaten & left like trash on a deserted lot. Like his father, TJ was no angel but Tommy is frustrated by the lack of progress with his case. Back in the day, Gus was the only decent cop Tommy met so he approaches him with a job offer. He wants Gus to look into TJ's murder.

After turning him down, Gus has second thoughts & sets out to find Tommy. Unfortunately someone else found him first. Gus doesn't now it yet but he has stepped into the middle of an elaborate cover-up that began over 20 years ago. And there are those who will do anything to keep it buried.

 

This is a fast paced thriller with more than enough twists to keep you on your toes. All Gus wants to do is fulfill his obligation to Tommy. But it soon snowballs into something else entirely. Why are former colleagues warning him to back off? And how did he attract the attention of a powerful & deadly drug lord?

So on one level you've got a great edge-of-your-seat read. What elevates this book are the characters & their personal stories, all told in a fluid yet spare style of writing. 

There is a large cast ranging from cops & family to criminals & barkeeps. Each is well developed with distinct voices that add to the overall plot. There's an ambiguous quality to several of the characters & it's hard to suss out whose side they're on. By the time all is revealed you may be in for a few surprises.

One particular standout is Slava, a coworker at the hotel. Initially he comes across as a quiet man from some eastern bloc country. After he gets pulled into Gus' investigation, it becomes clear this is a man seeking atonement for something in his past. 

But the star of the show is Gus. Through his descriptions & dialogue, the author has created an authentic character. He's a smart, likeable guy who lost it all & his grief is palpable. Taking on TJ's case is a big step for him as it means he'll have to interact with the world again. As he digs away, his focus shifts outward to the misfortunes of others & we catch glimpses of the man he used to be. It's like he's slowly coming out of self imposed seclusion & choosing to participate. This is a guy you'll root for. He's also a guy you'd want in your corner when the going gets tough. 

 

The last few chapters have you turning the pages at warp speed as tension ramps up for an inevitable showdown. The combination of suspense & a character driven plot makes this a satisfying read. And an interesting twist at the end ensures I'll be in line for book #2.