Hurt Machine: A Moe Prager Mystery by Reed Farrel Coleman (Tyrus Books, $15.95, 320 pages)
If you recognize the song title above, you’re a contemporary of Moe Prager, the hero of this, the seventh book in the mystery series. Reed Farrel Coleman is a prolific author whose ability to spin an engaging tale is obvious in this well-paced novel. Although Coleman’s work is new to this reviewer, the comfortable intimacy of Moe Prager’s first-person narrative made the story meaningful.
Faced with a nasty stomach cancer diagnosis just weeks before his daughter Sarah’s wedding, Prager ponders his mortality. He references past characters who have informed his life, some living and some, like Israel Roth, gone from this world. Since the story is part retrospective and part reality check, the appearance of former wife Carmella is the perfect segue into the past.
Prager is a former cop whose array of acquaintances comes in handy when he takes on Carmella’s request to clear up her sister Alta’s good name. Alta and a co-worker walked away from a dying man which was an unforgivable sin, considering the two were emergency medical technicians with the New York Fire Department. Not long after the episode, Alta was murdered in the street near a famous restaurant. Well, the restaurant, actually a pizzeria/gelato spot, is famous by Brooklyn standards.
Regardless of the plot twists and interwoven groups that populate the story, it is the effort that Prager makes to reconcile his longing for Carmella, the obvious love offered to him by current girlfriend Pam, and his yearing for future grandkids that compels the reader to move along with him to the last page.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Hurt Machine is also available a Nook Book and Kindle Edition download. “…contemporary who-dunits don’t get much better than Shamus-winner Coleman’s seventh Moe Prager mystery.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)