Book Review: The Big Seven ( A Faux Mystery), by Jim Harrison

What I like about this book is that it’s by an old man about an old man. The old man in the novel is a retired cop, which seems to be the only old men one reads about, but I’ll take what I can get in a world full of kids and young women as protagonists.

It’s also a rule breaker. There’s not much of a climax, and the protagonist does not change much. (He takes up drinking wine instead of whiskey). He’s not real likable, although I identify with much of what he thinks and does. He’s a boozer and a womanizer. He has sex with about anyone who will stand still, even very young women, and even at the age of sixty-six. So, to me, he was interesting and watchable. I wanted to see what happened next.

As to the mystery part, it’s called a faux mystery because it’s not in the form of a mystery, and such mystery as there is is not all that mysterious. That is, he doesn’t hide the ball, and there’s no misdirection. 

Retired cop Sunderson (I don’t know that his first name was ever mentioned) just wants to go fishing. He is contemplating, however, the seven deadly sins; the “big seven.” As a cop he has seen much horror and violence, even in the backwoods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and has decided that he should write about an eighth deadly sin, namely, violence. The fact that the Bible is riddled with violence, largely on the part of God, is not lost on him, which he thinks may account for violence not being a deadly sin. But he thinks it should be.

In the course of his trying to fish at his cabin in the woods, and considering the big seven, he comes into contact with, and of necessity, conflict with, the Ames family; a murderous and incestuous group of criminals and drunks who fight and kill each other and those around them. The mystery part comes in when Ameses start dropping dead from poison.

This is one of the few books lately that’s been able to hold my interest. The writing is rough, raw, and organic. Maybe there could have been some editing, but I thought it refreshing to read something that stood, I felt, pretty much as it had been written without being ravaged by some editor.

It was also refreshing to see something written by an older man, rather than a twenty or thirty-something woman. You may not like that sentiment, but think about it. I identify with the protagonist because I’m much more like him than I am a young woman. And I didn’t say there was anything wrong with writing by or about young women, I’ve read it. All I said was that it was refreshing. There is not enough work by or about older men, which are now a marginalized segment of humanity, at least in the US. It’s not a book that many young women are going to read or to like.

This is an excellent and entertaining read, and an insightful look into the mind of regular guy nearing the end of his life.