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Hard as Nails: A Joe Kurtz Novel - Dan Simmons Joe Kurtz and his parole officer are walking through a parking garage when two men open fire on them. Both take bullets to the head, although Kurtz's is just a ricochet. Kurtz checks out of the hospital early and goes looking for the prime suspects, Angelina Ferrara and Toma Gonzaga, the new heir to the Gonzaga crime family. But what does Kurtz's shooting have to do with Gonzaga's and Ferrara's missing drug dealers?

Once again, Dan Simmons brings home the bacon and fries it up. It's not every day I read a book that has the main character getting shot in the head on the first page. Kurtz puts his feet to the street and slowly unravels the mystery of who shot him and his parole officer and which was actually the intended target in his hard edged style. The Artful Dodger was a pretty slick villain, as was the Major. For a while, I wasn't sure Kurtz was actually going to survive this one.

The writing of Dan Simmons is what set this, and the other two Kurtz books, apart from similar stories. The concussion Kurtz received in the opening ambush was giving me a headache by the end the way Simmons was describing it. Like the previous two books, Simmons lets the questions pile up and the suspense build until it's orgasmic conclusion at the end. Kurtz inched a little closer to having a relationship with his daughter and actually showed some compassion for Rigby, proving that while it's wrapped in miles of barbed wire and covered with land mines, Joe Kurtz still has a heart.

Any complaints? The ending came out of nowhere. I thought the mastermind should have had a bit more time onstage earlier. While I liked the bit with the Dane, it was too much like his first appearance in Hard Case. My main complaint was that Dan Simmons isn't writing any more Kurtz books! The nerve! I guess I'll have to read his other books in other genres as compensation.

While it's not perfect, Hard as Nails is an easy 4 and a must read for readers of the other two Kurtz books.

There's just one thing I don't understand: How do you get Peg as a shortened form of Margaret?

Later: I forgot this Easter egg, a quote about Joe Kurtz's parentage.

My mother was a whore. I didn’t see much of her even before the orphanage. Once when she was drunk, she told me that she thought my old man was a thief, some guy with just one name and that not even his own…

Kurtz goes on to say that his old man never had sex until after the job was done. Sound like anyone you know and love?