Archive for the ‘Reed Farrel Coleman’ Category

Love and Fear is the fourth in the Gulliver Dowd mystery series (after Dirty Work, Valentino Pier and The Boardwalk) of ‘high interest-low reading level’ books by Reed Farrel Coleman. I give Coleman a lot of credit for (a) catering to a neglected segment of the reading population and (b) writing something interesting for them to read. Mystery readers, in general, will enjoy the book, regardless of reading level.

Gullier Dowd is no ordinary man. He is short (under five feet). His body is mismatched, almost grotesque, and totally opposite of his handsome face. He refers to himself as God’s Little Joke. A private investigator, he is in between jobs when there is a knock on the door…from someone he’d rather not see-crime boss Joey Vespucci’s number one enforcer, Tony. Dowd and Tony do not get along, at all.

Tony using his own initiative tells Dowd that Vespucci, unbeknownst to himself, needs Dowd’s help in finding his missing daughter, Bella. Dowd is the best person-finder money can hire and all the other investigators Vespucci hired have failed. Dowd, using a bit of psychology on Vespucci, gets his buy-in and off he goes with Ahmed, his right hand man, and Tony as Vespucci’s eyes and ears.

In a mere 150 pages, Coleman put together an interesting mystery with twists and turns and logical thinking. It certainly helps with the backstory to have read the previous books as Love and Fear does refer to the death of Dowd’s sister, Keisha, and to his current amore. Either way, Love and Fear is an enjoyable read.

As an aside, if you haven’t read Coleman’s new Gus Murphy series, book one Where It Hurts is waiting for you.



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I’m a Reed Farrel Coleman mystery fan, especially the Moe Prager WhereItHurtsseries. So I was saddened when that series came to a sad but honest end. But Coleman has followed it up with a new protagonist, different but equally as good, Gus Murphy. While Moe was based in Brooklyn, Gus is based in Suffolk County, Long Island, much closer to my home and much more familiar, which always makes for fun reading.

Gus is ex-Suffolk County police. It’s been two years since his son suddenly died and Gus’ life has been a disaster. He dealt with bouts of depression. His marriage collapsed. His daughter, Kristy, once a ‘good girl’, has been acting up. He lives in the low class hotel for which he drives the van to and from the Long Island Railroad Station. Things really couldn’t get much more depressing.

When, an ex-con, Tommy Delcamino, who Murphy arrested several times, approaches him to find the killers of his lowlife, druggie son, TJ, because the police haven’t followed up on any leads, Murphy thinks he’s playing the ‘dead son’ card and tells him to fuck off. However, after ruminating over it and discussing it with his therapist, he realizes Delcamino had no one else to turn to. So, he decides to apologize to Delcamino for his insensitivity. However, arriving at his trailer, Murphy finds it tossed and Delcamino brutally murdered. So, of course, Murphy has no option but to pursue both Tommy and TJ’s murder. Being warned off by both policemen and drug dealers alike only reinforces Murphy’s resolve.

Murphy is a real person in the sense that he goes through a range of emotions. He’s lost his faith in God. He’s been wallowing in self pity for the past two years. And when his investigation seems to give him renewed life, he doesn’t understand it and finds it hard to swallow.

I particularly like Murphy’s cynicism regarding God and religion, the various inequities on Long Island, police corruption and life in general. His descriptions of various Long Island neighborhoods, the rich ones and the poor ones, is spot on, cynicism included. The ancillary characters are a mixed bunch, from honest to corrupt police, savage drug dealers, and folks down on their luck. All of this makes for good reading. I’m trying to think of who to compare Gus Murphy to, but can’t come up with anyone.

After reading the Moe Prager series, I read all of Coleman’s other series, which is probably something you should do. It won’t take long to read, but the enjoyment should keep going for a long time.

According to Coleman’s website, this is Book 1 of the Gus Murphy series. That’s good to know. It gives me something to look forward to.

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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.

DirtyWorkThe 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.ValentinoPier 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.

TheBoardwalkSam 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.

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By now I’m sure you know that I like Reed Farrel Coleman as a mystery writer. His standalones as well as his series, HollowGirlDylan Klein and Moe Prager are well written, action packed and fun reading. So, it is with both joy and sadness that I read Hollow Girl, Coleman’s latest. It is a great read, but also the last in the Prager series.

Moe’s fiancee, Pam, was killed in a freak auto accident a month earlier and Moe has been drunk ever since. He’s awakened one morning by his brother, Aaron. Nancy Lustig, a women Moe met on a case 35 years earlier wants to meet. Moe reluctantly agrees. It seems Nancy’s daughter, Sloane (aka Siobhan) has been missing. While she’s been out of touch for several weeks at a time previously, this is the longest period of silence. The mother and daughter seem to have a love-hate relationship and Sloane seems to live to torture her mother.

Sloane had passing notoriety a decade earlier as the Hollow Girl, an internet sensation performing ‘real life’ performance art, which included an fictional suicide. As Moe pursues the case, he uncovers Sloane’s sordid life. He also begins a relationship with Nancy that, kept silent all these decades, was simmering in both of them.

I really enjoyed Hollow Girl. And why not!!! He mentions two of my favorite things: Katz’ Deli in lower Manhattan and the Allman Brothers. Moe Prager is the guy next door. He suffers the same things we all do: loss of friends, cancer, failed relationships. And he waxes philosophical about all of these things. He has hunches that sometimes work out and sometimes don’t. The Prager books have a lot of action, countered by Moe’s reminiscing. They explore how people feel. They are well written, as well.

Reed Farrel Coleman packs a lot into his books about life and love. It’s not just the mystery that captures you, it’s the people.  I will admit that there was one of his books I didn’t like at all…Gun Church. I couldn’t even finish it, so I’d suggest you skip it. But, other than that, I’d read all of his other books.

I’m sure there’s something new on the Coleman horizon that will thrill fans. I can’t wait to find out what it is. In the meantime, enjoy Hollow Girl.

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OnionStreetIf you’re a Moe Prager fan, you’ll know that in the last book he found out he has cancer. In his latest, Onion Street, his daughter, concerned about him, is visiting and asks why he became a cop. That’s the end of the present day. He then begins a long story leading up to his applying to the police academy. The story includes bombs, drug smuggling, beatings, drives through Brooklyn and more.

Reed Farrel Coleman’s books are always a good read and this is no exception, once you get past the implausibility of the situations Moe, as a college student, gets into and the actions that he takes. No college student I know or knew back in the day would do any of the things he did, let alone all of the things he did.  But then again, I grew up in Queens, which although geographically close, psychologically is a long way from Brooklyn. Maybe they did things differently there.

Anyway, as I said, once you get past this, it’s a fun read. Coleman brings up locales and TV shows from the period. Some of them are vivid. Any of you who routinely took the Belt Parkway past the garbage dumps can, even now, visualize and actually smell the noxious fumes. The rumble of the elevated trains never leaves you. The book brought back memories of me and my grandparents walking in Brighton Beach, getting Mrs. Stahl’s knishes, the shadow of the El darkening the street.

So, now that I think about it, Onion Street was more a walk down memory lane for me than a believable mystery. But, so what! I really enjoyed it. That’s what counts.

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Little Easter is the second Dylan Klein mystery by Reed Farrel Coleman. Like its predecessor, Life Goes Sleeping, this book made me want to keep reading until I got to the satisfying conclusion. True, a few clues turn up at the end that were absent throughout this book, but it didn’t make a difference.

Dylan Klein, insurance investigator turned writer turned detective and his friend, ex-policeman Johnny MacClough, are both people you’d like as friends. In this episode, Dylan is tending Johnny’s bar, the Rusty Scupper, on Christmas eve. It’s dead and Dylan’s ready to close when a 40-ish woman rushes in, looking for Johnny Blue. Since Dylan knows no one by that name, he can’t help. A very short time later that evening, she’s found dead at the local Long Island Railroad Station. The remainder of the book dredges up old friends and some not so friendly old friends. There are good cops and bad cops, and a washed up news reporter looking for a comeback.

It’s Coleman’s combination of action, humor and people that make his books so enjoyable. As you know, I’ve become a great fan of his and am looking forward to the final book in this series and starting his Joe Serpe series, written as Tony Spinoza. Enjoy.

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As you already know, I’m a fan of Reed Farrel Coleman, having just finished his Moe Prager series. His earlier series, Dylan Klein, consists of three books, the first being Life Goes Sleeping. Only Mr. Coleman can open a book at a funeral, make it funny and then lead you through a series of mysterious twists and turns, end up back at the cemetery a year later for a denouement and again make it funny.

It appears that Life Goes Sleeping is Mr. Coleman’s first book and it’s noticable. It’s that whole international spy thing. I guess I’m just not buyiing it. BUT…the main reason I read Reed Farrel Coleman is for his words, use of language, humor, philosophy and these components are there in full force. His description of various relatives at his mother’s funeral are outright funny. His description of Klein’s friend and Sound Hill tavern owner, Johnny MacClough, and their friendship is something to write about. We all need friends like Johnny. Coleman’s discussion of family, how Klein doesn’t talk to his two brothers, wasn’t that close to his parents, reeks of the reality of so many family dynamics. In Life Goes Sleeping, you see the hint of the later Reed Farrel Coleman, as he hones his craft.

The other reason I read Mr. Coleman is Brooklyn and Long Island, where his novels take place. Living in Roslyn, I was surprised to find the motel under the Roslyn viaduct make an appearance in Life Goes Sleeping, as do Hempstead Harbor and Glen Cove. My grandparents lived in Brighton Beach and Klein’s description of the intersection of Brighton Beach Avenue and Coney Island Avenue and Ms. Stahl’s Knishes (I used to go there as a kid) brought back wonderful memories. I can picture certain locales that are described in the book. That’s always fun.

So, I encourage you to read Life Goes Sleeping and plot Mr. Coleman’s growth as a writer.

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In seven books, Reed Farrel Coleman has taken Moe Prager from the 1970s to present day, aging him from his 20s to his 60s. Many authors having taken many more books to age their protagonists less. Yet, this series is still cohesive and readers don’t feel like they’ve missed anything.

Hurt Machine takes place two years after Innocent Monster. It begins with Moe emerging from his oncologist’s office. The news is not good. He’s outside a restaurant where a local reception dinner is being held for his daughter’s upcoming wedding, several weeks away in Vermont, when he sees his estranged ex-wife/ex-PI partner, Carmella. Her sister, Alta, has been murdered and she pleads for his help in finding the killer. She assumes it relates to an incident in which Alta and her on the job partner, Maya, EMTs, refused to help a restaurant patron who was having a heart attack.

Of course there’s more underlying the brutal murder and maybe more astute readers would see the ending earlier in the book than I did, but I didn’t see it coming. There are enough twists and turns and misdirections to delight even the most stubborn mystery reader.

But it’s Moe that steals the show. Always philosophical, he’s even more so as he contemplates illness and possible death, the shortness of life. This book is all Moe. Our favorite characters make fleeting if any appearances: Israel Roth, Sarah, Carmella (maybe because many of them have died and not been replaced by new favorites). However, Coleman has brought in an intriguing new character, Detective Fugua (a new series in the making if I were Reed Farrel Coleman….hint, hint, Reed!).

Coleman has said that he’s working on a prequel and possibly a ninth book. While there are certain detectives whose authors should send them out while they’re on top (Mr. Connelly, it’s time to retire Harry Bosch and Robert Parker should have retired Spenser years ago, really), I personally am not ready to see Moe Prager drift off into the sunset.

So, as I’ve said before…treat yourself. Start with Walking the Perfect Square and read the series through to Hurt Machine. You too will have a new favorite gumshoe.

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On the drive to work today I was trying to figure out how to categorize Michael Connelly and Harry Bosch. Not in terms of genre. In terms of why I continue to read them. Like a good piece of chocolate, that first bite is oh so good. However, as you look at that 17th and last piece, begging you to devour it, it’s not quite as tasty. Yet, you can’t resist. And so it is with Harry Bosch and The DropI’ve invested a lot of time in Harry and, as each new episode is published, I feel compelled. Yet, they aren’t as sweet as the first. It’s sad to say that my favorite character has shifted from Harry to his daughter, Maddie. Surely, The Drop isn’t as catastrophic as the horrendous Nine Dragons, but it isn’t as savory as the earlier books.

In The Drop, Harry has two cases going on simultaneously. The first deals with a serial sex offender and the second deals with the death of George Irving, the son of his nemesis, Irvin Irving. True to form, Harry does his own thing and while the cases get wrapped up neatly, Harry suffers from his trade. Was he used as a political pawn? Did he not let justice take his course?

As I said, Maddie, his fifteen year old daughter, turns out to be the best character. Smart, observant, funny, she is the comic sidekick to Harry’s serious nature.

Reed Farrel Coleman, my new favorite mystery writer, said that he must age his characters to keep them interesting. I think one of my issues with Bosch is that while he’s aged chronologically, he hasn’t aged emotionally. He’s still the same maverick he was in the Black Echo. I can’t relate to him anymore.

So, like that last piece of chocolate, I’m most probably going to read the next Bosch installment. I’m just not sure I’m going to get as much satisfaction out of it. Good thing it’s a fast read and I won’t devote a lot of time to it. Sorry, Michael.

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“Mary White smelled of sweet perfume and mixed feelings when she greeted me at the door of her house,” Moe Prager says upon meeting up with an old acquaintance. “Kites bathed in dying orange light flirted with the Verrazano Bridge and dreamed of untethered flight,” he thinks as he drives along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn as the sun is setting.

I’m making my way through the Moe Prager mysteries by Reed Farrel Coleman (I just finished Empty Ever After) because his latest one, Hurt Machine, just recently published, got great reviews. One more to go! Yes! And while I wouldn’t say the series falls into the “Literary” genre, they are literary, as evidenced by the snippets above. Coleman, in the form of Moe Prager, is practical, philosophical, literary and literate.

Prager’s also human. I have a lot of favorite mystery characters: Harry Bosch by Connelly, Kinsey Milhone by Grafton, Joe Gunther by Mayer, Jackson Brody by Atkinson, Mike Daley by Silverstein and, more recently, Claire DeWitt by Gran.  (By the way, if you haven’t read Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, you must. That’s an order.) However, the only one I can visualize as a next door neighbor is Moe Prager.

There’s a 15 year gap in Moe Prager’s life between the previous installment and Empty Ever After. (In a recent interview Coleman said, unlike Sue Grafton’s protagonist, he, Coleman, must age his characters in order to keep it interesting.)  Empty Ever After incorporates the cases of the previous books, making it both a benefit and a hindrance.  If you’re familiar with the cases/books, you may or may not want to rehash parts of them again.  On the other hand, it all fits together nicely. If you’re not familiar with the previous books, you may get a tad lost, but Coleman does a good job of acquainting you with the salient points.

For purposes of this blog post, the plot is too involved to summarize without the backstory. Suffice it to say, Coleman makes it work. For a quick, enjoyable read, Moe Prager is a #1 recommendation.

Coleman also said that he plans two more Prager books, a prequel and another book. You know I’ll be waiting impatiently for these to be written.

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