rating: 4 of 5 stars
The latest in the Moe Prager series brings our reluctant PI to the near present. It’s the turn of the century. The Twin Towers still stand, George Bush is a non-entity, and Moe Prager is suffering from a nineties hangover. His daughter is grown. His hated father-in-law is dead. His wife has left him. Moe finds his only solace in running a chain of wine stores with his brother, a business he seems to hate, but takes refuge in anyway. He also keeps his feet wet as a PI by running an agency with former NYPD detective Carmella Melendez.
Just as Moe is getting used to being a bored divorced man in his middle age, the ghost of Patrick, his ex-wife’s brother, begins haunting the former Mrs. Katy Prager. To the point of driving her insane.
Moe makes it his mission to find out who is impersonating Patrick and why. The scheme sounds a bit far-fetched, but skillful writer Reed Farrell Coleman is, he makes that a plot point. Someone has gone to considerable expense and effort to make Katy think she is seeing her dead brother to the point of desecrating his grave and getting an actor a tattoo identical to Patrick’s. Even the sister of Patrick’s late gay lover is involved as someone apparently has vandalized his grave, too.
But if there’s one tragedy in all this, it’s that the person behind this charade isn’t just robbing Katy of her sanity. He is destroying what’s left of the Prager family. Not even halfway through the book does it become clear that Moe and Katy will never be friends again, let alone reconcile. And the secrets Moe held for so long thinking they’d protect his family only serve in the end to break them irrevocably apart.
This is dark, painful closure for virtually all Coleman’s Prager stories. Moe is left utterly alone at the end and yet…
And yet he is still in the wine business with brother Aaron. He is still not only Carmella Melendez’s partner, but someone she knows she can turn to in the wake of an unwanted pregnancy.
This could easily be the end of the Prager series. It can also be the start of the next chapter. Reed Coleman doesn’t let Moe get off that easy. He doesn’t let the reader, either.
Nor should he.