Raymond Chandler once advised that when things get slow in a story, have a man with a gun come through the door. What's most remarkable about Coleman's first mystery to feature Brooklyn PI Moe Praeger (after three Dylan Klein noirs: Little Easter, etc.) is that he never resorts to such a crude device. Rooted in the late 1970s, the story is so solid, the characters so compelling, the pace so expertly driven that he can dispense with the usual genre stitches. If the one murder in the book occurs off-stage, there's no lack of suspense. The author makes us care about his characters and what happens to them, conveying a real sense of human absurdity and tragedy, of the price people will pay to get ahead or hide their true selves. Moe's job—he's an ex-cop forced to retire because of a knee injury—is to find the son of another cop, a young man who left a party one night and hasn't been seen since. So many people have been searching for Patrick Mahoney in the 20 years since his disappearance that Moe doesn't expect to be successful. As his investigation proceeds, he finds himself looking for two Patricks: one a choir boy lookalike and the other described by those who knew him as "weird" and "strange." But why? Is it possible Patrick's father really doesn't want to find his son? Patrick stands at the core of the novel, and the intricate tale of what happened to him makes for a first-rate mystery. Moe is a fine sleuth. Coleman is an excellent writer. (Dec.)
Forecast:The misleading title and inappropriate jacket art won't help, but praise from a few big name authors could give a real boost to this series down the line.