The Big Seven by Jim Harrison


Didn’t love this as much as I did Harrison’s previous book with these characters, The Great Leader, even though the books are quite similar. But Harrison’s brilliant narrative riffs kept me reading through the story’s weaker moments, and the book’s best moments are toward the end. If Harrison writes another of these faux mysteries I will surely read it.

The mystery in The Big Seven is more faux than ever, and concerns the Ames clan, whose cumulative catalog of sins reminded me of the dirty joke in the movie the Aristocrats. The point seems less any specific crime than the accumulated force of their awfulness, usually from one Ames family member to another. The question of who is guilty of this book’s particular murder gets subsumed in the Ames family’s maze of misdeeds.

The title refers to the seven deadly sins, and protagonist struggles to write a treatise on violence, which he considers the eighth deadly sin (though doesn’t wrath already cover that?). Reading this book, I couldn’t help but relate this story to the dysfunction that is flaring this week in Baltimore. When will it stop being like this? What is to be done? There is no better solution that putting some people in jail, even though no one expects that to change much.


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