Sat 28 Jan 2012
Reviews by L. J. Roberts
REED FARREL COLEMAN – Innocent Monster. Tyrus Books, hardcover, November 2010; trade paperback, January 2012.
Genre: Private eye. Leading character: Moe Prager; 6th in series. Setting: New York City.
First Sentence: Katy’s blood was no longer fresh on my hands and after 9/11 people seemed to stop taking notice.
It has been six years since Moe worked his last case; the case that created an estrangement from his daughter, Sarah. When Sarah asks him to find 11-year-old Sashi Bluntstone, an art prodigy who has been missing for three weeks, he can’t refuse her. What he didn’t expect were the dark secrets and betrayals hidden in that world of apparent refinement.
Coleman’s background in philosophy and poetry are clearly reflected in his writing. The story’s opening conveys the mood of the story while providing back-story to new readers. Achieving both, without bogging down the story’s beginning, is only one example of Coleman’s talent.
His style and imagery is one which both tells a good story, but makes you stop and think about what he’s saying… “There are lies to hate and lies to adore. Even now, seeing it clearly maybe for the very first time, Coney Island was a lie I adored.”
The strong sense of place nearly becomes extra character and the dialogue brings the characters to life. Moe is a character I particularly like. He is not perfect, has known and contributed to tragedy, is definitely not a super-PI, but he is intelligent, determined and has a wry sense of humor.
He has an overriding morality and ethical core along with a certain vulnerability. It is for others who are vulnerable that he does his job; not for the money.
The book is very well plotted and engrossing. Exposing the dark side of the art world is fascinating as is the reminder that we should all “Beware the innocent monster” as the one we don’t suspect is the one who is often most dangerous.
Although there is certainly a case to be resolved, the story is very much about Moe. Many of the issues in his life are, if not resolved, at least confronted, acknowledged and accepted. This feels to be a pivotal book in a series one should read in order from the beginning. I look forward to seeing where the series goes from here.
Rating: Very Good.
The Moe Prager series –
1. Walking the Perfect Square (2001)
2. Redemption Street (2004)
3. The James Deans (2005) [Shamus, Barry, and Anthony awards; nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Gumshoe awards]
4. Soul Patch (2007) [Barry and Edgar award nominees]
5. Empty Ever After (2008)
6. Innocent Monster (2010)
7. Hurt Machine (2011)