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INNOCENT MONSTER by Reed Farrel Coleman: Book Review

I read this book last night in one sitting–I couldn’t put it down!

Innocent Monster is the sixth Moe Prager mystery.  As Lee Child says on the back cover, “The biggest mysteries in our genre are why Reed Coleman isn’t already huge, and why Moe Prager isn’t already an icon.” I couldn’t agree with Child more.

I had read two previous books in this series when I picked this one up at my local library.  Frankly, I didn’t realize it was the sixth book or that I had only read two others; when I got home and realized this, I decided to read it anyway.

Prager’s back story is sufficiently explained so that it’s not necessary to start from the beginning of the series to find out the story of his life.  Prager’s life has not been an easy one, and as this book opens he’s still recovering from the murder of his first wife, the divorce from his second, and the estrangement from his only child, Sarah, who blames him for her mother’s murder.

Their formerly close relationship has deteriorated into quick once-weekly phone calls, something which hurts Praeger greatly but which he is powerless to change as he too thinks himself guilty in his wife’s death.  But as this novel opens Sarah calls him with a request to meet.  When they do, she explains that the eleven-year-old daughter of her childhood friend has been abducted, and in the three weeks since that kidnapping the police have been unable to find the girl.

Prager, a former New York City policeman and later a private detective, objects strongly to taking this case, saying that he’s no longer working as a P.I. and that if the police haven’t found the girl, he won’t have any better luck. But, his daughter persists, you’ve always been lucky, at least in your work, and he has to agree.  She makes him understand that the resumption of their relationship depends on his looking for young Sashi Bluntstone.  The case is complicated by the fact that Sashi isn’t just any eleven year old but a nationally famous art prodigy whose abstract paintings have sold for amounts in the tens of thousands since she was four years old.  Her parents are distraught over her abduction, but are they telling the police and Prager everything?

And for a young girl, Sashi has a lot of enemies.  Art critics deride her paintings, semi-famous painters use the Internet to post hateful, obscene scribes about her, and museum directors voice their opinions that Sashi, in fact, is not the artist at all.

There is a lot of thinking and philosophy going on in Prager’s mind. His life has been so traumatic, so filled with betrayals by those he trusted and loved, that he has little confidence in himself and doesn’t think himself worth much.  This reader, at least, formed a very different opinion of him, but it’s easy to see why a man who has gone through as much as he has isn’t looking at the glass as half full any longer.

Reed Farrel Coleman has created a mensch in this middle-aged Jewish man from New York, even if the mensch himself isn’t sure about that.

You can read more about Reed Farrel Coleman at his web site.

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