Closing Time by Jim Fusilli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What a pleasant surprise! Some years ago I started reading a book by Jim Fusilli - I think it was "Hard Hard City" - and despite really trying, I failed to get past about page 40. So I had been apprehensive before starting his "Closing Time". In addition, when I opened the book I noticed an epigraph from Friedrich Nietzsche. Uh-oh! Yet the novel has proved quite readable, and while not exactly captivating, it is rather well written, and Mr. Fusilli does not shy away from sharing sharp sociological observations with the reader.
Terry Orr, a writer and a father of a precocious twelve-year old, Bella, cannot come to terms with death of his beloved wife and baby son at the hands of a maniac two years earlier. (By the way, can anyone seriously believe that it is possible to fully recover after such an unimaginable tragedy? I doubt it). One night, out for a run, he finds a dead livery cab driver, victim of an assault. Soon after that incident, when he and Bella attend a party in an art gallery owned by Judy, his late wife's friend, the gallery is bombed, and he saves Judy's life. Obsessed by his own revenge drive, Terry becomes sort of a private investigator, working on the cases of the cabbie's killing and gallery bombing, while trying to raise his daughter as best as he can.
Best thing about "Closing Time"? Definitely the portrayal of New York. The author has a great sense of the place and conveys it beautifully in the novel. The conversation with the vice principal of the exclusive school for minority students is another highlight - it shows particular complexities of the racial divide that we normally do not see. Raising a precocious daughter is a tired cliché, but the thread sort of works here, unlike in most other books, and the snobbish world of haute art galleries and their denizens is depicted with flair.
The downside? There are too many characters in the novel, and the author has a pretentious manner of using more complex stylistic devices than needed to forward the plot. Readers who - unlike me - enjoy fast moving plots will be disappointed and may think the book boring. Overall - a good crime novel, psychologically and sociologically solid, though not in any way exceptional.
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