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    CLOSING TIME by Jim Fusilli

    G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2001

    Terry Orr can't put the death of his wife and infant son behind him. He's abandoned his career as a writer and become a private detective but insists that life never become the same, never become normal. Living in New York City with his daughter, Orr tries to make things right with the universe, knowing that he can never really succeed.

    While running, Orr finds a cab, its driver a victim of murder. Although he doesn't have a client, he resolves to investigate and finds that an abused boy is somehow involved. Simultaneously, he becomes involved in an art gallery bombing.

    Although Orr's two cases are unconnected, a common theme runs through them--and through Orr's relationship with his daughter and with his dead wife and son. In every case, the father has somehow failed the child. Orr feels that he should have been there to save his wife when she ran into a madman in the New York subway. The artist's father should have been more supportive of his son. The boy's father should not have abused him.

    Author Jim Fusilli writes with dense prose, bringing literary references, artistic movements, and music (he even adds an appendix for contents of the juke box rated as the best in New York). The mysteries themselves are less important for the crimes they represent than for Orr's opportunity to escape from his sense of failure and frustration--to do something while continuing to deny that life can return to normal.

    The high point of CLOSING TIME is Orr's 12-year-old daughter, Bella. Bella breaths an air of reality into a character list that is otherwise more quirky than multidimensional. Bella battles to save her father from himself, from his ever-present sense of depression and continual need to hold onto what he can never have. At times, you'll want to take Orr and give him a shake to let him know how much he still has.

    Two Stars

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