cover image Little Easter

Little Easter

Reed Farrel Coleman. Permanent Press (NY), $24 (221pp) ISBN 978-1-877946-23-3

Aspiring writer Dylan Klein is tending bar in a small town not far from New York City on a cold winter's night when an overly made up middle-aged woman comes in asking for Johnny Blue. There is no Johnny Blue, only a Johnny MacClough, a former cop who owns the bar. The woman departs. Klein finds a diamond necklace on the floor and traces high-heel marks in the snow to the woman's still-warm corpse, its mouth stuffed with a yellow bird. Coleman ( Life Goes Sleeping ) uses up his store of literary pretensions and opaque stylistic techniques at the start, but patient readers are rewarded with a somber and gripping crime story: Klein tracks down the dead woman's identity and her relationship with the tight-lipped MacClough; he unearths a few more stiffs, and he gets sordid and horizontal with a boozed-up woman journalist whose career is on its way down despite her fancy credentials. The graphic conclusion, as mob thugs surface with guns blazing, features the brief, memorable appearance of a gardening implement. A grim start and a grim finish mark this uneven but often satisfying story. (Mar.)