Friday, March 28, 2014

Hard as Nails by Dan Simmons

Simmons doesn't waste much time getting Joe Kurtz into trouble. It starts off innocently enough, with a visit to his PO, Peg O'Toole, but soon descends into madness when they are both attacked in the parking garage at her offices by a pair of gunmen, who leave Kurtz in the hospital with a bleeding head wound and Peg in a coma. Joe's enemies start piling on the minute he wakes up in the hospital, with a smack upside the head by O'Toole's wheelchair-bound uncle, a war hero who blames Kurtz for her being attacked, and being interrogated by a pair of detectives, one of whom used to be his close friend, and sometime lover, Rigby King.

Then, there's a whole slew of the usual suspects who may be ready to take Kurtz out of the picture, including Angelina Farino and Toma Gonzaga, heads of the local crime families, who may or may not have hired the legendary assassin, the Dane, to fix Joe's wagon permanently. Big Bore Redhawk, whom Kurtz embarrassed in Hard Freeze, a mysterious killer known as The Dodger, and maybe even a Yemeni terrorist or two are all gunning for him, plus a couple of folks we don't even suspect at first.

The whole mess centers around a battle for control of the heroin trade, and Kurtz ends up playing middleman in the final "negotiations". Some of it was quite predictable. I think I've just read too many stories - I know when a tried and true plot device is being pulled out of the cupboard and dusted off one more time. Plenty of violence and twisty plottings, some backstory on Kurtz' life in an orphanage, and just a hint of Joe beginning to trust at least a few folks in the world.

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