Reed Farrel Coleman
F + W Crime
“Death, not time, is probably the only lasting remedy for hurt and even that’s just an educated guess.”
Moe Prager is the realistic protagonist in the latest book in this series by Reed Farrel Coleman, Hurt
Machine. Moe is a private investigator who also happens to be Jewish, who spent years working as
NYPD, but made the choice to do the right thing, rather than be promoted. His thoughts are
on his recent diagnosis of stomach cancer with the upcoming surgery and having his daughter, Sarah,
getting married. He doesn’t plan to tell Sarah about the cancer until after the wedding. The surgery is
scheduled during her honeymoon.
A former investigative partner, Carmella Melendez, asks for Moe’s help with discovering the murderer
of her sister, Alta. Alta was stabbed to death after a highly publicized incident where Alta and her
partner refused to give medical help to a dying man even though they were trained as EMTs. The press
crucified the two which cost them their careers complete with public hatred. The partner was forced
into complete isolation due to the public hatred. Why would two EMTs refuse to help a dying man?
What logical reason could there be? What really happened? Why were there no witnesses who came
forward regarding Alta’s death?
Hurt Machine is the seventh novel in the series featuring Moe Prager. This novel works both as a
standalone or as a series installment. Reed Farrell Coleman has written thirteen other novels including
two other series, two standalone novels, various short fictional stories, essays, and poetry. He
works as noir poet laureate for “The Huffington Post”, is adjunct professor at Hofstra University, and an
instructor at Mystery Writers’ Association University. His writing has been nominated and won
numerous awards for the Shamus, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony awards.
Hurt Machine excels in realistic characterizations. The plot is well-developed, complex, detailed, and lifelike. The entire story feels real as you are with Moe with his physical pain of cancer and the emotional pain of working for his former wife, Carmella. This awkward situation of working with his ex-wife while she is also not completely forthcoming, while Moe at the same time chooses to keep secrets from his present wife and daughter, makes this investigation into his former relationships complex, but also genuine. His feelings of loss for Israel, Carmella’s son, but not Moe’s natural son, is a convincing emotion for any parent whether after a divorce and a long period of time with no contact at all. This emptiness for Israel leaves an, an enormous void engulfing Moe.
Moe’s approach to this investigation was to go back to the original incident with the EMTs ignoring the dying man. When he questions Alta’s partner, to him it seems obvious the secrets that he is not being told. Unfortunately, no one chooses to inform Moe about the reasons behind this decision in ignoring a dying man.