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Friday, March 9, 2012

Hard Knocks by Howie Carr

Ultra-gritty crime novel

Published  in 2012 by Forge Books.

Hard Knocks is among the grittiest of gritty crime novels. It is set in Boston and in ex-cop turned private investigator Jack Reilly's world, everything is ran by a political machine, the mafia or both. Everyone is on the take, it's just that some people get caught and others are a bit luckier or smoother.

Jack Reilly is not like his brother, an unlucky small time mafia wannabe who rotates in and out of prison. But, he's retired (with a "disability") after he was tainted as being the mayor's bag man who picked up bribes. Reilly is quite clear that he was not a bag man (except when no one else could do it) but he did a lot of work for the mayor as the man who could dig up dirt on anyone and make sure it made it into the right hands - a wife, a reporter, a political opponent.

Reilly gets dragged into a case by Bucky,  a lock-picking friend of his brother from prison who discovered a lot of information and incriminating paperwork about local mafia types and political big shots while he was breaking into safe deposit boxes during a bank heist. Bucky doesn't know what to do with it and is scared that the powers that be on both sides of the law will be gunning for him. Turns out Bucky was right - he is killed in the street right after talking with Reilly and now Reilly feels an obligation to do something about it. He really has no choice since Bucky has dropped it all in the mail for safekeeping and Reilly knows he won't be safe once he receives it.

Soon enough, everyone is gunning for Reilly while he figures out what he can do with these secrets before he ends up dead like Bucky.

Hard Knocks is gritty, but the unrelenting dark nature of the book eventually wore me down - Boston became a place to be endured, not a place to live. I had a hard time getting behind Jack Reilly as well. On the whole, the book is too dark and too despairing for my tastes. I have to give this one 3 of 5 stars.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Hard Knocks by Howie Carr.

Reviewed on March 9, 2012.

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