Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, January 19, 2023


 Walking the Perefect Square by Reed Farrwl Coleman (2001)

Moe Prager is an ex-New York City cop, "retired" after he suffered a disasterous work-related knee injury.  How he injured his knee was as prosaic as most of his police career:  he slipped on a piece of carbon paper on the floor.  This was in December 0f 1977, back when arthroscopes and MRIs weren't standard operating practice, and "the docs cut me up pretty good."  

The only thing of note that happened during Prager's police career occurred five years earlier, when seven-year-old Marina Conesco vanished on an Easter Sunday trip to Coney Island.  For four days, police and volunteers searched for the little girl before admitting that she was probably dead.  It was on the fourth day, however, while searching after hours with two firemen, that Prager had an intuition -- they began to search rooftop water tanks and found the young girl in the fifth tank they searched.  She was in half a foot of water, her skull fractured, as were her right arm and left ankle, but she was alive, suffering from shock and hyperthermia; she had been molested for two days and then thrown in the tank to die.   Another time, another place, and this would have been a career-maker for Prager.  But this was the Seventies and money in the city was tight, and Prager was a Jew; to advance in the police force one had to be of the right sort and to have the right political connections.

For several years, Prager and his big brother Aaron had been pooling their resources to make Aaron's dream of owning his own wine shop come true.  Aaron had found the perfect store for his dream,  but Prager and his brother were several thousand dollars shy from closing the deal.  Prager's best buddy from the department, Rico Tripoli, offered to put up the rest of the money for a share in the business, but Aaron wanted this to be strictly a family affair.  Then Rico found a way for Prager to come up with the money himself.

Patrick Maloney was a college student at Hofstra who had gone missing several weeks before at a college fundraiser held at a Manhattan bar.  One moment the was there and the next he wasn't.  People -- and often college students -- go missing all the time but, in this case, Patrick was the son of Francis Maloney, a sanitation commissioner for the county and a powerful political figure -- the best fund-raiser the county Democratic machine had.  Maloney could make the government wheels spin and sing to any tune he wanted; making and breaking people was a hobby with him.  If Prager could find the boy, Maloney would see that he got the money needed, tax-free, to close the deal on the wine shop.  In addition, he would grease the regulatory wheels of the liquor commission -- as long as Prager made a sincere effort, whether it succeeded or not.

Francis Maloney was not a nice man.  He was an out-and-out racist who showed no true concern for his son (always referring to him as "the boy."), and he appeared to be approaching Prage strictly to appease Patrick's mother.  Maloney admitted that he would prefer not to hire Prager, but "a deperate man plays even the low cards in his hand when the picture cards aren't winning."  Maloney also told Preger to relay anything he found out to Rico Tripoli instead of himself -- he did not really want to be bothered with Prager.  Prager knew he was being called in only for appearances sake.

Then Prager discovered that Maloney was deliberately trying to thwart efforts to find his son.  Why?  And Patrick Maloney was a mystery -- a reclusive yet friendly young man, talented but unwilling to explore his talent, an obessive-compulsive who could be prone to violence, a man who normally avoided girls but would fall in love at the drop of a hat...

It was the late Seventies and America was changing, soon to grow out of its "est, disco, and shag rug" stage into something else.  Personal and social attitudes were being examined.  And Prager soon had to examine his own personal attitudes and biases.

Through it all, Moe Prager remained a quiet observer. although questioning everything that is happening around him.  He is a strong famiuly man, with a deep love for his brother and sister and their families.  As the case continues and becomes more and more complicated, Prager also finds comfort in newly-formed friendships.  Prager is surrounded by deceit, hatred, bigotry, corruption, and violence, but his personal sense of humanity and loyalty protects him and, in the end, may betray him.

Reed Farrel Coleman is the author of nine books in the Moe Prager series, including the award-winning The James Deans.  Coleman's books have won the Anthony, Audie, Barry, Macavity, Scribe, Shamus, and Spinetingler Awards, and is a four-time Edgar nominee finalist, a four-time Barry Award nominee finalist, a three-time Anthony Awrd nominee finalist, a three-time Macavity Award nominee finalist, and a Gumshoe, INDIEFAB, and Thriller Awards nominee finalist.  Coleman has also authored the Dylan Klein, Joe Sharpe, Gulliver Dowd, Gus Murphy, and Jack Kenny series of books, as well as two standalones.  In addition, he wrote six books in  Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series.  Coleman has been called the "noir poet laureate."

If you have not encountered his work before, what are you waiting for?

1 comment:

  1. I saw (and heard) Reed Farrel Coleman at BOUCHERCON and enjoyed his tales of his writing adventures. He's a very prolific guy!