cover image THE JAMES DEANS: A Moe Prager Mystery

THE JAMES DEANS: A Moe Prager Mystery

Reed Farrel Coleman, . . Plume, $12 (277pp) ISBN 978-0-452-28650-4

Coleman draws inspiration from the real-life Gary Condit/Chandra Levy case for his appealing third hard-boiled mystery set in the early 1980s (after 2004's Redemption Street ). New York PI Moe Prager and his wife, still traumatized by a recent miscarriage, are surprised to be guests at a high society wedding. The affair proves to be a pretext for a mover and shaker to recruit Prager to the cause of a charismatic state senator, Steven Brightman, whose political rise was stalled by the disappearance of an attractive young intern more than a year earlier. Despite the cold trail, thoroughly explored by both the police and Brightman's hired sleuths, Prager finds new clues that lead him to a surprise solution. Given this revelation relatively early on, few readers will be startled that a different truth emerges before the refreshingly ambiguous conclusion, with justice at best partially served. Not everyone will go for the heavy-handed humor (a long-winded "southern politico" named Clinton "had better stay in Arkansas, because he has about as much chance for national office as the Mets have of winning a second World Series"), but all will cheer the likable, virtuous Prager. Agent, Wendy Silbert at Harvey Klinger. (Feb. 1)

Forecast: Blurbs from Michael Connelly, S.J. Rozan and Steve Hamilton will help lift this one out of the pack.