Where It Hurts (Gus Murphy) by Reed Farrel Coleman

KK Conley Review:

RFC Where It Hurts

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What did I like best about this book? EVERYTHING. It has a great story, wonderful writing, a unique protagonist in Gus Murphy, a couple of murders, colorful characters, plenty of suspects, a little romance, and betrayal.

The story takes place on Long Island, but not like I’ve ever read about it before. This is not North Beach or the Hamptons, but the places on the Island where the hired help of the hired help live and die.

Gus left the Suffolk County Police Department two years ago after the sudden death of his twenty-year-old son. He’s driven a shuttle van for a hotel and checks IDs in the hotel club in exchange for a room. It’s the kind of place where guests’ goals are to leave, and the only time it is full is when a storm closes the airports, and no rooms are available anywhere else.

A petty criminal that Gus arrested several times comes to him for help because he can’t get SCPD detectives to investigate the murder of his son. He comes to Gus because he says Gus is the only member of the police who has ever treated him like a human being. Gus is rude to the man, and later goes to apologize. He finds the father murdered, and somebody attempts to kill him. He gets a chunk the size of his thumb blown out of his calf and threatened by people who believe he received something from the dead father. They don’t tell him what it is, they tell him they want it back.

This is another book I finished at three in the morning.

This are some examples of Coleman’s wonderful writing:

The air was mean and raw, the sky a patchwork of ugly gray bruises. A thin layer of mist covered everything.

He was Greek through and through, and when we were in the Second Precinct together, the guys used to love to break his balls just to hear him curse at us in his dad’s native tongue. We didn’t understand a word he was saying, but we loved the music of it.

This book is tagged as Gus Murphy #1. I look forward to Gus Murphy #2. This is the first book I’ve ready by Mr. Coleman, and I wonder how I’ve missed him over the years. He’s been selected to continue the Robert B. Parker Jesse Stone Series. Along with more books about one of my favorite characters, I hope there will be more movies starring Tom Selleck as Jesse.

Booklist Online Reveiw:

Former Long Island cop Gus Murphy retreated to a low-key existence as a hotel detective after his son’s abrupt death unraveled his marriage and dissolved his dedication to the badge. When petty criminal Tommy Delcamino tracks Gus down and begs him to investigate his son TJ’s violent murder, Gus has no intention of stirring up his own grief by tangling with another father’s loss. But when he finds Tommy’s body and is nearly shot by the killers, Gus needs his own answers. Warned off the case by cops and a deadly drug dealer, Gus obstinately digs into the investigation by interviewing the handful of witnesses Tommy listed in his amateur murder book. As he dissects the stories of a former outlaw biker, an outcast con man, a Mob-connected fence, and TJ’s closest friend, Gus dodges attacks on his life with the help of his secretive, battle-ready coworker, Slava. Gus, who is absolutely one of genre veteran Coleman’s best-drawn characters, brings the hard-boiled investigator’s requisite battle scars to the table without the self-destructive bent we’ve been trained to expect. Instead, he meets his tragedy and its consequences with a considered straightforwardness, and his desire for justice reawakens in time with the investigation’s quickening tempo, hopefully signaling the start of a series.

— Christine Tran

©Booklist Online

Amazon Description and Rating:

From the critically acclaimed and award-winning author comes a gritty, atmospheric new series about the other side of Long Island, far from the wealth of the Hamptons, where real people live—and die.

Gus Murphy thought he had the world all figured out. A retired Suffolk County cop, Gus had everything a man could want: a great marriage, two kids, a nice house, and the rest of his life ahead of him. But when tragedy strikes, his life is thrown into complete disarray. In the course of a single deadly moment, his family is blown apart and he is transformed from a man who believes he understands everything into a man who understands nothing.

Divorced and working as a courtesy van driver for the run-down hotel in which he has a room, Gus has settled into a mindless, soulless routine that barely keeps his grief at arm’s length. But Gus’s comfortable waking trance comes to an end when ex-con Tommy Delcamino asks him for help. Four months earlier, Tommy’s son T.J.’s battered body was discovered in a wooded lot, yet the Suffolk County PD doesn’t seem interested in pursuing the killers. In desperation, Tommy seeks out the only cop he ever trusted—Gus Murphy.

Gus reluctantly agrees to see what he can uncover. As he begins to sweep away the layers of dust that have collected over the case during the intervening months, Gus finds that Tommy was telling the truth. It seems that everyone involved with the late T.J Delcamino—from his best friend, to a gang enforcer, to a mafia capo, and even the police—has something to hide, and all are willing to go to extreme lengths to keep it hidden. It’s a dangerous favor Gus has taken on as he claws his way back to take a place among the living, while searching through the sewers for a killer.

4.4 Stars, <100 Reviews

Goodreads Rating:

4.1 Stars, 100+ Ratings

Author’s Website Description:

(same as Amazon description.)

Reed Farrel Coleman’s Website



“If you have read Coleman’s earlier works you know he has a knack for killer sentences and characters. But Gus Murphy is something special. His grief feels real, his demons believable, his personal wilderness tough to bear but necessary. And I like this working class Long Island a whole lot.”
Sarah Weinman, The Crime Lady Newsletter

“Edgar-finalist Coleman offers a searing look at the dark underside of Long Island in this stellar series kickoff….Coleman’s moving portrayal of a man in deep, deep pain, a tightly constructed plot, and a gift for making Long Island seem like James Ellroy’s L.A. add up to a winner.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Gus, who is absolutely one of genre veteran Coleman’s best drawn characters, brings the hard-boiled investigator’s requisite battle scars to the table without the self-destructive bent we’ve been trained to expect. Instead, he meets his tragedy and its consequences with a considered straightforwardness, and his desire for justice reawakens in time with the investigation’s quickening tempo, hopefully signaling the start of a series.”
— Booklist, starred review

“The author of the “Moe Prager” series has created another engaging sleuth in the down-but-not-out Gus. His cynicism about God, the income divide on Long Island, and police corruption add dimension to his protagonist. The ancillary characters, both good and bad, are also a fascinating mix. Moe Prager fans will hail this new series, as will lovers of solid mysteries, especially those set on Long Island.”
Library Journal, starred review

“This superb novel is part police procedural and part crime fiction that morphs into a thriller. The buildup is compelling…keep a scorecard, because there are numerous characters with a variety of nicknames.  Enjoy the surprise ending.”
RT Book Reviews

“One of the greatest voices in contemporary crime fiction, and one of the best storytellers too. I loved this book. Nobody does it better.”

“Gus Murphy is the new name in crime fiction. He is my kind of guy and Where It Hurts, Reed Farrel Coleman’s spectacularly absorbing new novel, is my kind of story. You go into a story like this expecting/hoping for a solid character to ride with, a high-octane story in which you don’t see the turns coming in the road ahead, and a truthful observation on life from a different angle. As usual, Coleman delivers. I can’t wait for Murphy and Coleman to show up again.”

“Reed Farrel Coleman introduces a great new character, Gus Murphy, a street savvy ex-cop who operates beneath the glitter of the Gold Coast and the glitz of the Hamptons in a Long Island that few outsiders ever see. Where It Hurts is a gut punch of a novel, a murder mystery layered with grief, greed, and grit. Coleman is as good as Chandler, Hammett or Ed McBain.”

“Modern noir at its absolute best! Reading Where It Hurts is to bask in the joy of the heyday of private eye fiction—Chandler, Hammett, Cain and the whole crew. Everything’s a delight, from the speedy and clever plot, to the firecracker snap of the dialog, to the heart-wrenching portrayal of the characters—good and bad. And Gus Murphy, what a protagonist! Coleman’s truly delivered, and then some.”

Where It Hurts is a thrilling start to a new series by Reed Farrel Coleman – who writes some of the best crime fiction around. Tough prose, taut plotting, and a great new protagonist named Gus Murphy.  Coleman’s got a winner here.”

“Reed Farrel Coleman’s Where It Hurts tells a riveting story about a Long Island that has nothing to do with the romantic vision of F. Scott Fitzgerald in this action packed tale of an amoral world. Coleman is a born storyteller who writes with great authority and gives as much bang for the buck as the best books in the genre.”

Where It Hurts ushers us into a vivid and rueful new world with a striking and haunted hero for whom we fall hard. With his signature hard-bitten lyricism but with an urgency and darkness all its own, Reed Farrel Coleman has given us a riveting new series we’ll want to live with for a very, very long time.”

Where It Hurts is taut, smart, and engaging with a terrific sense of place. Readers will never go wrong with Gus Murphy or his creator Reed Farrel Coleman.”