Very few writers take the major step of wrapping up a series, but Reed Coleman does just that. He does it with plenty of warning in his previous books. Many new readers who like this one, will be persuaded to read the entire series.
It’s widely known that PBS has called Coleman a “Hardboiled Poet.” He is a poet in the sense that his words flow and the meanings of his words and sentences not only tell the story. The words convey meaning, the meaning of his character, Moe Prager, Moe’s life, his family, as well as the folkways and mores of a man and his culture.
First, the story. It’s about a very spoiled missing girl. One who years before pulled off a coup in the early days of YouTube or the like, by faking her own very gruesome murder. Known then as “the Hollow Girl,” she has lived off the kindness of her father’s money and mother’s love. Now, she has gone missing, and feared in danger. Her mother, now a glamorous surgically reconstructed Long Island matron, hires Moe Prager, an old friend to find her.
Rather than step-by-step Moe’s movement, I’ll comment generally. The search is on, a body is found, Moe Prager is in trouble with some police, while respected by others. It sounds pretty ordinary when said that way, but Moe and his methods are far from ordinary.
Moe Prager is a different kind of private investigator. By now, he is over the hill in the sense that other PIs, refuse not only to cross but refuse to climb. Coleman’s Prager faces not only mortality but it’s warnings. He not only knows his own physical limitations but he challenges them. When psychologically necessary, he ignores them, but he knows he faces the consequences of his actions.
When Moe Prager, the protag, takes a job and does it, even when he is no longer being paid, and wants to get away from the responsibility of finding missing girl, he takes chances with his own life and freedom. He antagonizes the police when it is necessary. He antagonizes bad guys and perceived good guys. He has friends and family who worry about him and he about them.
He is a man capable of romantic love, but wary when it comes too easily. He is a man who notices detail, remembers it and then uses what he has noticed. He is an investigator who it not always correct in his conclusions, just as many of us are not always correct in ours. A rare feat for most fictional private detectives, and only a gimmick for others.
He is the rare character who thinks universally about life, our existence, our future, our afterlife–or not, and about God, without invoking God throughout the work, or depending on a God in whom he seems not to believe.
Does he find the girl? Hell, shouldn’t he. After all, what’s the point of a mystery if its not solved satisfactorily–or is it solved? We have our doubts even as the story is concluding, but the ending is not only satisfactory, but to my thinking perfect
As to the poetry? Only Reed Coleman and James Lee Burke strike me as prose poets, but Coleman is also a casual philosopher.