Monday, February 3, 2014

Hardcase by Dan Simmons

 Simmons demonstrates his versatility in switching genres to mystery, with a leading man who is just about as tough as Child's Jack Reacher, Joe Kurtz. As the story begins, former PI Kurtz has just been released after a dozen years in prison for the brutal killing of the murderers of his partner and lover, Sam(antha). While he was there, he befriended the son of a mafia boss, "Little Skag" Farino, and he uses that connection to wangle a job with the boss, whose power appears to be on the wane, to investigate the disappearance of his accountant, and to figure out who is behind recent attacks on his business interests.

The phrase that comes to mind when describing this book is "It's not paranoia when they REALLY are ALL out to get you." Kurtz only has a few true friends left on the outside, his former secretary Arlene, whom he re-hires to start up his new business, a couple of old homeless guys who worked as his informants before he went to the pen, and a weapons dealer named Doc who supplies him with a couple of pistols. Everyone else in this book has their own agenda, and they all seem to involve shafting Kurtz in some way.

There's Don Farino's lawyer, Miles, who has been skimming off profits for years, plus a couple of hoods in the street gang that is ripping off the Don's shipments, Malcolm and Cutter. There's the Don's bodyguard, Carl, who takes offense to Kurtz' attitude and ambushes him later, and the dumb quintet of rednecks from the White Aryan Army of the Lord who try to invade his fortress of solitude in an old warehouse. There's the corrupt cop, Hathaway, who tries to frame him for murder and parole violations (oddly enough, his new PO keeps him out of jail on that one), and the brother of one of the people he murdered that got him put in prison in the first place. I might have missed someone, but you can see there's a whole queue of folks waiting for a shot at Kurtz.

He deals with most of them with brute and blunt force, while using his fox-like street smarts to get to the bottom of the mystery and survive for the sequel. Great, mindless entertaining violence.

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