The Big Seven

by Jim Harrison

Hardcover, 2015

Call number




Grove Press (2015), Edition: 1st, 352 pages


The Big Seven sends Detective Sunderson to confront his new neighbors, a gun-nut family who live outside the law in rural Michigan. Detective Sunderson has fled troubles on the home front and bought himself a hunting cabin in a remote area of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. No sooner has he settled in than he realizes his new neighbors are creating even more havoc than the Great Leader did. A family of outlaws, armed to the teeth, the Ameses have local law enforcement too intimidated to take them on. Then Sunderson's cleaning lady, a comely young Ames woman, is murdered, and black sheep brother Lemuel Ames seeks Sunderson's advice on a crime novel he's writing which may not be fiction. Sunderson must struggle with the evil within himself and the far greater, more expansive evil of his neighbor.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Hagelstein
An introspective retired Detective Sunderson blackmails a musician that his adult stepdaughter is running away from college to be with. He in turn has sex with the stepdaughter. He takes the money and buys a fishing cabin, where he encounters the wild, murderous Ames family, "certifiably nuts, a severe genetic mishap." He has sex with one of them, a 19 year-old, and also helps her get away from her bad family situation. He's 65.

To himself, it seems that Sunderson "existed totally on a diet of reverie and fishing." Not totally, but that's a lot of the book. There's also sex with young women and offhandedly solving Ames family murders. He also ponders his divorce from his ex-wife Diane and hopes to reconcile with her in some way. It looks like he might manage it too.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
The is my 10th Jim Harrison novel and probably the last I will read about his 60 plus white male protagonist from the Upper Michigan peninsula. His prose is terrific and his narrative meanderings are what make him a great writer. It is just gets old reading about an alcoholic , over sexed man who always seems able to attract young women. If you enjoy that type of character than you might enjoy this for the creativity of his writing. However, if have never read Jim Harrison then I recommend "The Road Home" as the best introduction. He has also written a lot of novellas which I find are easier then some of his novels. A great writer but the subject matter was not my favorite.… (more)
LibraryThing member JBreedlove
JH is getting old but is still distinctive and enjoyable. Uneven and sometimes uneccessary. Sunderson didn't need to break his back and he gets laid much to easily but he is a great vehicle for the aging JH to reveal his thoughts on food, writing, and age. From Brown Dog to Sunderson. The writing is thick and the setting real. Hopefully he will put out a few more before he doesn't wake up one morning.… (more)
LibraryThing member RowingRabbit
The title refers to the 7 deadly sins, a topic that is preoccupying Detective Sunderson now he's retired. That is, when he's not mourning the demise of his 40 year marriage to Diane or lusting after every woman he comes across young enough to be his grand daughter.
Early in the story, he attempts to rescue his adopted daughter from a drug addled rock star through a blackmail scheme. He comes home without the daughter but scores the cash & buys a cabin in upper Michigan. There he decides he will spend his days fishing & reflecting on the sorry state of his life.
In short order he finds himself embroiled in the lives of the Ames, a neighbouring family that redefines dysfunctional. It's rather telling that the most civilized & cultured of the group is the one who spent the most time in prison. Their compound is a hotbed of incest, domestic violence, rape, child abuse & alcoholism. He befriends (and beds) two of the women but things get a little complicated when the men start dying at an alarming rate. Despite being retired, he plays an active role in the investigations....when he's not fishing or having sex with other women.
Much of the story is taken up by his relationships with the Ames & the eventual resolution of the murders. But don't mistake this for a suspense filled thriller. Even Sunderson himself seems oddly blasé about all the violence around him, preferring to bow to the whims & demands of the women in his life, meekly following their lead. The crimes occur mostly off page & are quickly glossed over, sparing us the graphic details. But almost more disturbing are passages where the girls describe their role as sex toys for brothers, fathers, uncles & cousins in the calm matter of fact manner of discussing the weather.
Through all this, Sunderson ponders where it all went wrong & why he can't keep his pants zipped. During countless trips down memory lane & tangential musings, we accompany him as he recalls childhood friends, his mother, cases from his career, a pet dog, his courtship of Diane, thoughts on the Civil War & Siege of Leningrad, boa constrictors, the history of Mexican dance, food in general & poetry. These continue as it becomes a road book & he traces to New York, Arizona, Paris, Barcelona & Seville. Dialogue is kept to a minimum & the only voice we hear is his as we hang out in is head.
After the Ames fiasco is resolved, Diane plays a larger role & her character injects some reason & insight. It's easy to understand why she divorced him but difficult to believe she could forgive one episode in particular & give him a second chance. There are hints their relationship may shift but just as this begins to build the book abruptly ends.
This is a book that may provoke polarized reviews as it all hinges on whether or not you like Sunderson. The reader is with him 24/7 with no alternative voice to provide relief or a different viewpoint. I grew tired of his constant whinging & (superficial) soul searching for the reasons behind his failings when he's clearly the author of his present situation. Despite the mental meanderings he's the same person at the end as when we started this journey...a 66 year old peeping Tom with too much time on his hands & no moral compass to point him in a different direction.
So I'm left with that dissatisfying feeling of "I don't get it". Perhaps I don't share the author's sense of humour or I had trouble with some of the subject matter being told with such a light tone. As so often happens, it all boils down to personal preference so you'll have to pick this up & decide for your self whether Sunderson is someone you enjoy spending time with.
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LibraryThing member maneekuhi
"The Big Seven" by Jim Harrison is about a retired, mid-sixties, Michigan state police detective living in the UP - that's Upper Peninsula, Michigan for you non-midwesterners out there. Take a look at a map, note all the lakes, the dearth of cities, and try to find Marquette. Our guy Sunderson gets around a bit in this book, spending time also in New York City, Mexico, Paris (where he sleeps with his adopted daughter, now of legal age but of questionable morals), Seville, and Barcelona. This is not a mystery, faux or otherwise, as much it is a somewhat amusing mix of fantasies, excessive fishing, violence, reflections on the meaning of life, etc. For whatever reason, women find Sunderson appealing, and he has no problem attracting female "companionship" most of whom are a good bit younger, some in their teens. But given that the author himself is well beyond his mid-sixies, it is not unfair to suggest that these interludes may constitute a major piece of the fantasy component. The "big seven" is a reference to the seven deadly sins, something that is on Sunderson's mind a good bit, and something that he shares quite often with his readers. As a matter of fact, he proposes an eighth sin, and the book is jammed pack with examples, frankly to an extreme. I'm not sure what it all meant, maybe I didn't quite 'get it', but I did very much enjoy Harrison's prose. It has a rhythm all it's own, and then it will suddenly take an unexpected 180 degree turn. Here's an example from "The Big Seven": "He sat their stiffly thinking about their husbands, hard-charging men who overate and all died at his age in their early sixties. Probably none had avoided the fat on their ham hocks."

So I recommend this with some reservation. You might want to "Look Inside" before reading this. Will I read another Harrison? Probably not a full novel since I thought BS dragged a bit, but I note he has published a collection of novellas, and maybe I'll try that sometime in the distant future.
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LibraryThing member dickmanikowski
I've heard people praise Jim Harrison's writing for decades. Yet it wasn't until his recent death that I picked up one of his books from a commemorative display at a public library.
I was blown away.
LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
The Big Seven: A Faux Mystery, Jim Harrison, author; Jim Meskimen, narrator
I actually adored the book “Brown Dog” by this author and really looked forward to listening to this novel. However, there are 8 parts to this audio, and well into the third part, after several hours, I simply gave it up. It has become a habit with me, lately, to discontinue reading books that do not satisfy my interests. There are so many books and so little time!
Briefly, a retired, amoral police detective named Sunderson, who seems to believe he is above the law, sets off looking for the daughter Mona that he and his ex-wife Diane had previously adopted. Mona wants to run away with her musician boyfriend and has quit Michigan University and escaped with him to New York. Although Sunderson was a former law enforcement officer, he breaks the law by blackmailing someone and is beaten to a pulp shortly afterward. He needs months of rehab to recover. In the meantime, Mona runs off to Paris. When he recovers, he goes to Europe to retrieve Mona, once more. She has now used drubs, been abused and abandoned, and needs help. He manages to have the musician arrested on other charges involving minor girls and takes Mona home, but not before he has sex with her; never mind that she is his daughter and has Hepatitis!
He then goes on a fishing trip to a remote pastoral area and sleeps with the young girl who cleans and cooks for him, Lily. He also sleeps with her sister, Monica. He is past 65 and they are youngsters, especially when compared to him. Although some seduce him, he is supposed to be the adult in the room, ruled by his large brain, not his little one. Both girls are related to the evil Ames family, a violent family of hoodlums and thugs, rapists and abusers. Soon, murders are occurring with abandon while Sunderson continues to be preoccupied with sex and alcohol!
I couldn’t find any redeeming features in the book to encourage me to continue to read. The predatory sexual encounters and the violence might appeal to some, though, because the writing is good if you can tolerate the subject matter and unpleasant nature of most of the characters.
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LibraryThing member JRCornell
The Big Seven sends Detective Sunderson to confront his new neighbors, a gun-nut family who live outside the law in rural Michigan. Sunderson must struggle with the evil within himself and the far greater, more expansive evil of his neighbor. HARD
LibraryThing member zmagic69
There comes a time when writers need to stop writing. This book is a perfect example of this belief. I haven't read this author before but based on this book it is time for this author to be put out to pasture.
This book is a dogs breakfast of a story. It is a mess. For the life of me I can't tell you the point of it.
What it is not
1. It is not a mystery.
2. It is not a well told interesting story.
What it is
1. An aging ex cop
2. Who is an alcoholic.
3. And a borderline pedophile, and most certainly a degenerate.
4. A person who name drops: alcohol brands and cookware
5. Who likes to fish, catch fish, dream about past fishing trips, and eat fish: rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout, in various groupings.
6. Who buys a cabin next door to a family straight out of Deliverance, and proceeds to watch them get killed off, with or without his involvement.
7. Get involved with one member of the family (Monica who is under 22, her age is vague) who he hires as a housekeeper for his minuscule cabin, then starts sleeping with her, he likes them young.
8. He still loves his ex wife or at least the idea of having sex with her.
9. He has sex with his adopted daughter who is at least above the age of consent, but later feels bad afterwords.....sort of.
10. Has a dying mother who he goes and visits
11. Takes Monica to see mom since he got her pregnant, and because mom lives in Arizona which is near Mexico which is a place Monica has always wanted to go.
12. Oh yeah the book starts with a completely unneeded subplot of his adopted daughter leaving college, hooking up with a musician, getting hooked on drugs, living in Paris, needing Daddy to rescue her, and then they have sex.
13. The title refers to the 7 deadly sins which the main character is intimate with all of them, but he feels an 8th one needs to be added which is violence.
Something that is also a big part of his life.
14. To top it all off it is BORING!
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