Thursday Reviews: The Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman

The Hurt Machine

Reed Farrel Coleman

Death is very much on the mind of Moe Prager. As we meet him at the beginning of The Hurt Machine, he has just learned that he has a golf ball-sized tumor in his stomach. He refuses to begin treatment until his daughter Sarah is married. But Moe can’t stop thinking about the end. He feels an enormous amount of guilt over the death of his first wife, Katy, who was murdered by a man he fingered as the killer of a young girl twenty years earlier. He feels the weight of the lies he told about Katy’s brother, whose disappearance marked the beginning of his career as a private investigator. And he feels a debt to ex-wife Carmella.

This last one has Moe looking into the recent murder of Carmella’s sister, Alta. Alta is one of two EMT’s who watched a man die with the excuse that they were off-duty. As with any Moe Prager novel, there’s more here than meets the eye. Alta and her partner are pariahs in the FDNY. A few really angry hardcases are openly thrilled Alta is dead after making the department look bad. A lead that points to a recent fallen hero in the department triggers violent reprisals. But it also uncovers much more than a screw-up by two paramedics. Moe uncovers a web of blackmail, bigotry, and hypocrisy that leads him to discover that no one is what they seem to be.

As disgusted as he gets with the case, Moe can’t let it drop. It soon becomes more than tying up loose ends with Carmella. As with all his cases, Moe is unable to let it go well past the point other PI’s would have dropped it. Cancer, however, adds a new dimension to it. When Moe is wrapped up in the case, he’s not thinking about his possibly imminent demise. Even without the cancer, Moe has a sudden realization that he is sixty, and he is not going to be around forever.

Fortunately, Coleman assures us that he is around for two more books.