BOOK REVIEW: 'Hurt Machine': Hard-Boiled Ex NYPD Cop Moe Prager Returns with a Vengeance

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Hurt Machine': Hard-Boiled Ex NYPD Cop Moe Prager Returns with a Vengeance
Only the Dead Know Brooklyn -- 
Title of a short story by Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938)  

For those who miss the hard-boiled New York novels of the late  Ed McBain -- and who doesn't? -- or the novels of crime grandmaster Lawrence Block, who's my age and still active --  I recommend Reed Farrel Coleman's new Moe Prager novel "Hurt Machine" (Tyrus Books trade paperback, 319 pages, $15.95). It's the seventh novel featured 60-something Moses "Moe" Prager, retired New York Police Department detective turned wine merchant and sometime private investigator.  

At a pre-wedding party -- what's with all these pre-wedding, rehearsal wedding parties; I've been married for 47 years and we had none of that mishegas (insanity)! -- for his daughter Sarah, Moe Prager is approached by his ex-wife and former PI partner Carmella Melendez. (another good reason to avoid such parties: they often rip off the scabs of former wounds!)   Carmella’s estranged sister Alta has been murdered, but no one in New York City seems to care.   

Alta, a FDNY EMT -- (in New York City, emergency medical technicians are civilian employees, not firefighters)  and her partner had months earlier refused to give medical assistance to Robert Tillman, a chef at a fancy Meatpacking district restaurant who is stricken with an apparent stroke. What were the two women doing in the High Line Bistro in the first place, where prices are astronomical, Moe wonders. Moe decides to help Carmella as a favor to his ex-wife and ex-partner and as a way to take his mind off his doctor's recent discovery of a cancerous tumor in Moe's stomach.   
Reed Farrel Coleman
Reed Farrel Coleman

Moe Prager instantly runs into a Berlin Wall of obstruction in his investigation. Although they're civilian employees, EMTs are linked in popular mind and even the media with FDNY, so he's getting little or no help from firefighters who showered the two woman with a torrent of abusive emails and phone calls. Not even Alta's partner, Maya Watson, wants to cooperate in his investigation. He does get some help from a Haitian American cop, Jean Jacques Fuqua. No surprise: there's a large Haitian community in Brooklyn, probably the most ethnically diverse of all the five boroughs of NYC.   

Despite being beaten up outside a firefighter's bar and being threatened by a gigantic 1975 Buick Electra while he's driving, Moe persists in his investigation -- until he discovers that Alta's murder may not be related to her failure to assist Tillman. The more he investigates the murder the more he discovers a web of bureaucratic greed, sexual harassment  and blackmail. But is any of it connected to Alta’s brutal stabbing death?  

"Hurt Machine" is the first Moe Prager novel I've read and it makes me want to seek out the previous six novels. I recommend it without reservation.    

 About the Author  

Reed Farrel Coleman  has been called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the Huffington Post,  Coleman is the former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America. He has published twelve novels in three series — the Moe Prager Mystery series (7), Joe Serpe/Bob Healy series (2), and Dylan Klein series (3) — and two stand-alones. "Tower" was co-authored with award-winning Irish writer Ken Bruen, and "Gun Church" was released as an exclusive audio download from  He is a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year and is a two-time Edgar  Award nominee. He has also received the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. Coleman is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University. He lives with his family on Long Island. 
 His website:
Comments powered by Disqus