Monday, January 9, 2012

Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman

At a pre-wedding party for his daughter Sarah, Moe Prager is approached by his ex-wife and former PI partner Carmella Melendez.  It seems Carmella's estranged sister Alta has been murdered, but no one in New York City seems to care.  Why?  Alta, a FDNY EMT, and her partner had months earlier refused to give assistance to a dying man at a fancy downtown eatery.  Moe decides to help Carmella as a means to distract himself from his own life-and-death struggle.  Making headway on the case is no easy feat as no one, including Alta's partner Maya Watson, wants to cooperate.  Moe chips away until he discovers a cancer roiling just below the surface, a cancer whose symptoms include bureaucratic greed, sexual harassment, and blackmail.  But is any of it connected to Alta's brutal murder?
MY THOUGHTSThis is my first Moe Prager book, but it definitely read fine alone. As a mystery, it kept me glued to the pages. I wanted to know throughout the entire book what happened but no matter how hard I tried to piece it together, I had no idea what happened until it was revealed. Though the mystery of who killed Alta is the focus of the book, the back story is what really kept me going. Moe is a fascinating character study. In this book he's finding himself faced with some serious life decisions to make, as well as severe health problems. Having his past thrown at him makes things even more difficult for him. As we delved into Moe's personal life and the personal lives of those around him, they become dear friends that we can't help but love and be concerned for.

The feel of this book is what struck me the most. Instead of being the cutesy, cozy mystery of today, it has a bit more Sam Spade to it. Actually, I think it's the perfect blend of the mysteries of our grandparents and the mysteries of our children. It's right there in the middle where we find mysteries we want to solve and people we want to care about, but the tone is set so that we realize these people are untouchable realities. I strongly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys mysteries. I personally can't wait to see where Moe heads in the next book nor to pick up the previous books and see where he's been.

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The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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