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Magic City: A Novel (Thorn Mysteries) by…

Magic City: A Novel (Thorn Mysteries) (2006)

by James W. Hall

Series: Thorn PI (9)

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Showing 5 of 5
It's been flippin' yonks since I've read a James W Hall - I think it was Off The Charts was the last one. Did they stop publishing him over here for some reason? The reprobates. Was never a finer writer than Mr W Hall, one of the top Jameses of crime fiction - along with the likes of Lee Burke, Ellroy and Crumley - the unholy quartet of murder and mayhem and marvelous prose.

The inimitable Thorn travels from his snug home ground of the Florida Keys to the bustling and jostling devil's playground of Miami City to look after his girlfriend's ailing Dad while she's away doing search and rescue training. While Thorn is manfully and self-sufficiently mending the roof, two guys show up looking for a photograph. The two guys are brothers, survivors of a massacre that took place on the night the picture was taken at the Clay - Lister fight in 1964, and the picture reveals certain unpleasant truths to those who know that they're looking at. Thorn being Thorn responds by jumping off the roof and landing on one of the guys. Thus begins a whole lot of murder and fighting and hunting and running around and horribly emotional repercussions that are all the hallmarks of a good Hall.

Fantastic to read, these books are, pure, top-notch literate thriller pleasure. I must have more of these. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Overly florid prose, gaping plot holes diminish this suspense novel: In trying to evoke the atmosphere of the Florida Keys and Miami, James Hall reduces them to picture postcard pastiches. In not too many pages, the novel begins to sound like a travelogue from the late 1940s. It doesn't help that Hall introduces a woman of mystery - - - you know, the breathy internal dialog in italics kind - - - who is supposed to provide some kind of backstory, but really turns out to be a silly plot device that wasn't at all necessary. Overall, Hall has taken a very thin storyline and padded it out with lyrical embellishments about Florida, Miami, the Keys, growing old, Cassius Clay, Cuba, nefarious plots and broken lives. It doesn't work.

The story begins with Stanton King, former boy wonder Mayor of Miami (though his family mansion is in Coral Gables) seeing a photo from the 1964 Cassis Clay (later Muhammad Ali) / Sonny Liston title match. In the third row off ringside, five spectators are visible, a sight that shocks King into immediate action. That action involves two brothers, Snake and Carlos Morales. Shortly after the prizefight, the Morales family and retainers were gunned down. The rumor was it was the work of Castro's Communists.

Thorn is one of those guys with no past and no future. He lives off the grid in the Florida Keys where he ekes out a living tying fishing flies. Thorn has no photo ID, no ATM or credit cards. He has a cloudy past and an even murkier future. But he has fallen in love with Alexandra Collins, a crime tech with the Miami PD. So Thorn goes to the big, bad city of Miami to take care of Alexandra's long-retired homicide cop dad, Lawton, who is slipping into dementia. Of course, dad doesn't like Thorn who simply isn't good enough for his daughter.

It is the photo of the Clay - Liston fight that brings these people together. Someone is out to destroy all the copies of the photo. People are being murdered in this quest - and it looks like still more people are being added to the list.

The chase is kind of routine. The bad guys try to kill Thorn. They miss Thorn, but kill or wound others. Thorn calls in his pal Sugarman from the Keys. Sugarman keeps urging Thorn to go back to the Keys. Shadowy figures from the CIA emerge. All this over a photo of a prize fight more than 40 years in the past.

Does it hang together? No. Does it end it a thrilling blaze of fire and glory? No. Is it a page turner? Not by a long shot.

The characters are really thin. Thorn is just another strong, silent, conflicted tough guy with a traumatic past. Everyone else is just window dressing. The plot has major holes in it. One character who supposedly has a photographic memory is blithely unaware that a killer he saw close-up and personal had a television show in Miami. Yeah. Makes a lot of sense.

"Magic City" isn't an awful book, but it isn't a terribly exciting suspense novel.

  lonepalm | Dec 8, 2011 |
Nothing too heavy.. but fine, well constructed, escapist literature. Ninth in the Thorn, P.I. series. ( )
  jastbrown | Jul 21, 2010 |
In this thriller Hall weaves some Miami history, both real and imagined, into a present day crime and murder spree that entangles his recurring character, Thorn. Intricately plotted and featuring another unique murder weapon, some of the scenes involving secondary characters are the most compelling. The writing in the passages with Thorn and Alexandra doesn't glisten as it does in the rest of the book, as if the relationship is, or should be, approaching its end. ( )
  Hagelstein | Jul 2, 2008 |
This is one of those books about Thorn that you can't put down. Hall made me nostalgia for Miami and the Keys, as he has in the best earlier books around this character, and I likely would have read the book in one sitting if given the opportunity. If you like mysteries, south Florida, or suspense, I can't recommend these books enough, and this is right up at the top of the heap. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Jul 3, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031294747X, Mass Market Paperback)

A simple black and white photograph taken during the 1964 Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight on Miami Beach may hold the key to a horrific, politically-motivated crime forty-two years earlier. After it mysteriously reappears, the photo is burned in an act of arson that sets off a modern-day killing spree reaching from the quiet neighborhoods of Miami to the back corridors of the White House.

What the killer did not know is that a copy of the photograph still remains. When it falls into Thorn’s hands, he and everyone he close to him—including his beloved Alexandra—become the targets of madmen and trained hitmen, each of whom has a powerful motive to see the photograph destroyed…and will go to murderous lengths to make it disappear forever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:00 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Based on real events and newly declassified documents, Magic City is to Miami what L.A. Confidential and Chinatown were to Los Angeles. It evokes a time in our nation's history when powerful men were willing to do whatever they thought necessary to achieve their goals." "A simple black and white photograph taken during the 1964 Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight on Miami Beach may hold the key to a horrific, politically motivated crime. When the photo suddenly appears forty-two years later on display at a trendy Miami gallery opening, it is burned in an act of arson that sets off a modern-day murder spree, reaching from the quiet neighborhoods of Miami to the back corridors of the White House." "What the killer didn't know is that there is one remaining copy. When it falls into Thorn's hands, he and everyone he loves become the target of madmen and trained killers, each of whom has his own powerful motive to see the photograph destroyed forever and its secrets kept hidden."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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