Reed Farrel Coleman describes Gulliver Dowd as follows: “Gulliver was so short that his reflection filled up only the bottom half of a mirror. Gulliver looked as if he had been built from mismatched body parts. His arms and legs were too small, even for his squat body. His hands were too big for his arms. His fingers, too small for his hands. His head, too big for his height. But the cruelest thing God had done was to give Gulliver a handsome face.” Dowd was adopted as a child along with a young Black girl, Keisha, who he considered his sister. They both overcame the odds, he becoming a private investigator and she becoming a police officer. Since her on-the-job death seven years ago, he’s been mourning her and has vowed to find her killer. He’s gone so far as to move into her Red Hook loft, to feel ‘closer’ to her.
The two best months of Dowd’s life were the two months at the end of high school when he was dating the gorgeous Nina Morton. She made him forget what a cruel joke he was, until she dumped him on graduation day. Now, in Dirty Work, seventeen years have passed (for all seventeen years he’s been dreaming about her), and she comes to him asking him to help locate her (and his) missing daughter, Anka, a daughter he never knew he had. With the help of his friend, and former Navy SEAL, Ahmed Foster, Dowd visits the prestigious Wilton Academy which Anka attended, snoops around and comes up with an answer I didn’t see coming.
In Valentino Pier, Nina has called him again, but he’s ignored her call. Instead, he takes a walk along Valentino Pier in Red Hook and is approached by a young homeless boy, Ellis Torres, who starts talking to him. Torres has seen Dowd in the neighborhood and trusts him…somewhat. Torres asks Dowd to find his dog, Ugly, who has disappeared and Dowd agrees. He even goes so far as to give Torres $20 for food for both him and the dog, when it is returned. When Torres is found beaten up early the next morning and hospitalized, Dowd vows to find out what happened. Dowd always sides with the underdog, as that’s how he sees himself. Dowd and Ugly, with limited help from Ahmed Foster, crack the case.
Sam Patrick is a cop Dowd met in Valentino Pier. Patrick worked at the same precinct as Keisha, the 75th. Patrick knew her and respected her, which is more than Dowd could say about many of the cops. Patrick and Dowd became friends and when Patrick calls him to request that they meet…in some isolated place…later that night to talk about Keisha’s murder, Dowd readily agrees. Patrick never shows up and Dowd driving home, is rammed three times by a van, that last hit overturning Dowd’s car. At the hospital, Dowd overhears that a cop was shot by accident and died. When he finds out it’s Patrick, Dowd doesn’t believe it was an accident and tries to find out what really happened.
What’s nice about these books for struggling readers, is that Coleman doesn’t talk down to the reader. He keeps a high interest level, has created interesting characters and believable plots…as far as any mystery can be believable. In approximately 130 pages, Coleman tells an entire story. If he wanted to expand Dowd to full length novels, he could do it without changing the character. All he has to do is extend the story line. There’s action enough to keep readers interested. I highly recommend these books for struggling readers who want a good story.