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Book Author: Reed Farrel Coleman

WHAT YOU BREAK by Reed Farrel Coleman: Book Review

Gus Murphy is a man trying to regain his equilibrium.  He was a policeman in Suffolk County, New York, on the tip of Long Island.  He had a wife whom he loved and two teenage children who made his life complete; everything was going well until his son John died suddenly while playing basketball.  In What You Break, the second in the series, this happened in the recent past–some three years ago.  Gus’ world was turned upside down by his son’s death, and it hasn’t gotten any easier with time.

Now Gus drives a van for the Paragon Hotel as well as working as security for the hotel and its on-site club.  Although Paragon may sound upscale, the hotel is anything but; it’s simply a place for a weary traveler to stay for a night while waiting for the next morning’s flight or for a businessman/woman to stay while visiting clients in the area.  In other words the hotel is hardly a destination, more of an enforced stop.

Although he is no longer a cop, Gus still has a cop’s instincts, and when he picks up two passengers at Suffolk County’s MacArthur airport in Islip, his attention is drawn not to the annoyingly chatty man he’s transporting but to the man in the rear of the van who says nothing at all.  “…he was a runner, that I knew.  A street cop…knows a runner when he sees one.”  Not surprisingly, he is right.  This feeling of something “off” about the stranger is confirmed when the man enters the Paragon.  When Slava, the night bellman, and the man exchange glances, Gus can see there’s a history between them and it’s not a happy one.

The next morning Gus is still thinking about the new guest when he gets a call from Bill Kilkenny, an ex-priest.  Father Bill, as Gus still thinks of him, is probably Gus’ closest friend, a man who has kept the compassion of his former vocation but not the faith.  He asks Gus to come to his apartment but gives no reason.  Shortly after Gus’ arrival, another man comes in.  He’s introduced as Micah Spears, and the ex-cop takes an immediate dislike to him.  He knows it’s irrational, but there’s something about the man that rubs Gus the wrong way.

Micah explains that his young granddaughter, a recent college graduate, was killed, stabbed twenty-three times.  He doesn’t want Gus to find the murderer; the guilty man is in prison for life.  No, what Micah wants is to find the reason Linh was killed because he can’t think of any motive for her death.  Gus refuses the job, but Micah has an inducement that’s hard to turn down:  a fifty thousand dollar check to establish a foundation in the name of Gus’s late son plus a two hundred thousand dollar donation to a local hospital for research in the area of Gus’ choice.

So, reluctantly, because he can understand the pain of a man who has lost someone he loves without a reason, Gus accepts the case, little realizing it’s a first step into a maelstrom of violence and revenge.

Reed Farrel Coleman continues his winning streak with What You Break.  It’s a hard-boiled novel featuring a protagonist with a broken heart.  The characters are realistic, the setting is vivid, and the plot will keep you on edge until the end.

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

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


ONION STREET by Reed Farrel Coleman: Book Review


Life in mid-sixties Brooklyn was tough, especially for the lower middle class.  Like Haight-Ashbury, Brooklyn had hippies and drugs.  But it also had bombings and murders.

In 1966, Moe Prager was a student at Brooklyn College, an urban commuter school that was one of New York City’s prestigious tuition-free colleges.  You had to be smart to gain entrance into Brooklyn College, and Moe is smart.  But he’s unhappy too, unhappy with his uninteresting social life, unhappy to be still living with his mother and father and two siblings while he knows that other, more fortunate twenty-year-olds are living in dorms on green campuses and having a true college experience.

Moe’s closest friend is Bobby Friedman, another Brooklyn College student but one who’s not as serious or rule-bound as Moe.  Bobby is out to make money, lots of money, as quickly as possible.  Bobby had been dating the beautiful Samantha Hope, another college student, when she and a friend were blown to pieces in an explosion.  The police believe that the two were killed when a bomb they were planning to throw exploded too soon.  But none of their friends in the college leftist movement believes that their two friends would have been planning to injure innocent people.

Then Moe’s girlfriend tells him to keep away from Bobby, that Bobby’s in danger.  Moe doesn’t believe her, but the following night a car tries to run Bobby down.  Moe pushes him out of the way, and Bobby makes light of the situation in his usual style.  Was it an accident caused by the icy streets, or, impossible as it seems, did someone deliberately try to run the man down?

Moe Prager is a wonderful protagonist.   Onion Street is the eighth book in this series.   There’s always a lot of backstory by the time there are seven previous books in a series, but because this novel is told in flashback, except for the first and last chapters, it will tell you all you need to know about Moe and his relationships.  He’s actually telling this story to his daughter Sarah after they’ve been to Bobby’s funeral, where the rabbi has given the departed a fulsome sendoff.  Obviously, the rabbi didn’t know Bobby as well as Moe did.

Sarah has asked Moe numerous times why he became a cop in the first place, and he’s always avoided telling her the reason.  After the funeral he finally does, starting with the events of 1967.  When he’s finished telling Sarah his story, she says, “I guess those were very different times.”  Moe’s response is succinct:  “Sometimes, when I think back to those days, I can’t even imagine I lived through them.”

I gave a rave review to Innocent Monster, the sixth Moe Prager novel, on this blog in July 2010.  I missed reviewing Hurt Machine, but I’m back in the Moe Prager fold once again.

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

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.



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.