Hardcase (St. Martin's Minotaur Mysteries)

Simmons, Dan

Published by Minotaur Books, 2002
ISBN 10: 0312980167 / ISBN 13: 9780312980160
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Synopsis: Award-winning author Dan Simmons expertly reveals more surprises than clowns in a circus car as he takes the reader on a trip with Kurtz through the cold, windy streets of Buffalo where one wrong move could mean a belly-full of lead...

Joe Kurtz has been wronged one too many times. So when he takes out the drug dealing thug that killed his girlfried, the ex-PI gets to cool his heels for 11 years in Attica. It's there that he meets "Little Skag" Farino, the son of an aging Buffalo, New York mob boss. In exchange for protecting the kid's manhood against any unwanted jailhouse affection, Kurtz gets an audience with Little Skag's father upon his release from prison.

Byron Farino is still clinging to what dwindling power he holds on the New York organized crime scene. He enlists Kurtz's help to track down the Family's missing accountant--a man with too much knowledge of Family business to have on the loose. But someone doesn't want the accountant found. As the story twists and turns and the body count rises, Kurtz no longer knows who he can trust. Everyone seems to be after something, from the mob boss's sultry yet dangerous daughter, to a hit man named The Dane, an albino killer who is good with a knife, and a dwarf who is armed to the teeth and hell-bent on revenge.

Review: Penzler Pick, July 2001: Dan Simmons is not an author who writes the same book twice. He doesn't even come close. Since switching from fantasy/horror to mystery, Simmons has written Crook Factory, set in Cuba and starring Ernest Hemingway, and Darwin's Blade, featuring a genius insurance claims investigator who only has to look at a demolished vehicle to be able to know exactly what led up to the crash.

With Hardcase, Simmons both pays homage to over-the-top pulp fiction and writes a remarkably good example of it. Joe Kurtz has no intention of giving up his chosen profession of private investigator, even though he's just spent 12 years in jail. He believes it's only a matter of finding the right case. But that case will never come to him, so he pays a call on Byron Tatick Farino, mob boss, and suggests that for $400 a day plus expenses, he'll try to find the Family's missing accountant and also figure out who's hijacking the Family's trucks. Farino is inclined to let him do this since he has nothing to lose, and Joe did save his son from a fate worse than death in Cell Block D.

So Joe is off and running, and after picking up his ex-assistant, Arlene, he opens an office in the basement of a porn store and begins looking into the Mob's business. He no sooner interviews the accountant's wife than she is found dead and horribly mutilated.

The list of those who want Joe to butt out is long, and they are evidently very serious about preventing Joe from finding out too much. There's the person who is hijacking the trucks, and wants to continue. There's also a couple of sociopaths (if not psychopaths) named Malcolm and Cutter who work for the Mob's lawyer. Unsurprisingly, they are not exactly loyal and know that there's a $10,000 reward for the guy who wasted Ali, one of the Death Mosque brothers in Cell Block D. Finally, there are the Levine brothers, Manny and Sammy. Joe hasn't heard of either of them, but word is that Manny blames Joe for Sammy's death.

These numerous and varied storylines remain remarkably lucid as Simmons treats us to a fast-paced thriller with excitement on every page. --Otto Penzler

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Title: Hardcase (St. Martin's Minotaur Mysteries)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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