INNOCENT MONSTER (October 2010)
(6th Moe Prager Book)
Seven years have passed since the brutal murder that tore Moe Prager’s family apart and six years since Moe brushed the dust off his PI license. But when his estranged daughter Sarah comes to him with a request he cannot refuse, Moe takes a deep breath and plunges back into the icy, opaque waters of secrets and lies. Sashi Bluntstone, an eleven-year-old art prodigy and daughter of Sarah’s dearest childhood friend, has been abducted. Three weeks into the investigation, the cops have gotten nowhere and the parents have gotten desperate. Desperation, the door through which Moe Prager always enters, swings wide open. Just as in Sashi’s paintings, there’s much more to the case than one can see at a glance.
With the help of an ex-football star, Moe stumbles around the fringes of the New York art scene, trying to get a handle on where the art stops and the commerce begins. Much to Moe’s surprise and disgust, he discovers that Sashi is, on the one hand, revered as a cash cow and, on the other, reviled as a fraud and a joke. Suspects abound beyond the usual predators and pedophiles, for it is those closest to Sashi in life that have the most to gain from her death. Cruel ironies lurk around every corner, beneath every painting, and behind every door. Almost nothing is what it seems.
Innocent Monster is a book of children and parents, of lives lost and found. It is a variation on the theme of good and evil, each often wearing the other’s disguise. Beware the innocent monster for it need not hide itself and it lives closely among us: sometimes as close as the mirror.
Publisher: Tyrus Books
Sashi Bluntstone, the 11-year-old Next New Thing on the New York art scene, has been abducted, and Moe Prager—former NYPD cop and former PI—is asked by his estranged daughter, Sarah, to join the search. He expects only tragedy; Sashi has already been missing for three weeks, and he hasn’t been a PI for seven years. Now a well-to-do wine merchant, Moe agrees, primarily to attempt to restore his relationship with Sarah. He quickly learns that nothing increases the value of paintings faster than the death of the painter. Suspects abound: wealthy, self-important collectors; greedy gallery owners; odious rival artists; even the victim's parents. But Moe abides. This sixth Moe Prager novel is pretty much noteperfect. Coleman's take on the art world as a den of iniquity is priceless, as is Moe himself—intelligent, street smart, and tough, especially for a sixtysomething. He’s also sophisticated, despite seeing himself as a “poor schmuck from Brooklyn.” He’s a mensch, and his bone-deep world weariness and mordant sense of humor should enthrall lovers of old-school, tough-talking, loner private eyes (think Loren D. Estleman's Amos Walker). - -American Library Association's Booklist
Reed Farrel Coleman, Tyrus (Consortium, dist.), $24.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-935562-20-7
In Shamus-winner Coleman's darkly impressive sixth Moe Prager mystery (after 2008's Empty Ever After), the retired Brooklyn PI takes on a baffling missing person case only because his estranged daughter, Sarah, begs him to help. In the three weeks since art prodigy Sashi Bluntstone, the 11-year-old daughter of Sarah's childhood friend Candy Castleman, disappeared from a walk on the beach near her Long Island home, the police have found no trace of the girl, who "skyrocketed to prominence at age four when her Abstract Expressionist paintings... began selling for tens of thousands of dollars." Prager, who encounters a host of ugly characters, including parents Max and Candy, who aren't telling all they know, and resentful painter Nathan Martyr, becomes increasingly sure that Sashi is dead, but keeps slogging along. His past as a cop, his guilt over his wife's murder, and his current career as a wine merchant make Prager a complex character well suited to handle a complex mystery. (Oct.) - Publishers Weekly