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Empty Ever After Paperback – November 15, 2012
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About the Author
Reed Farrel Coleman is a New York Times bestselling author that has been called a "hard-boiled poet" by NPR's Maureen Corrigan and the "noir poet laureate" in The Huffington Post. He has published more than twenty-five previous novels, including novels in Robert Parker’s Jesse Stone series, the critically acclaimed Moe Prager series, and the Gus Murphy series. A three-time winner of the Shamus Award, he has also won the Anthony, Macavity, Barry, and Audie Awards. He lives with his family on Long Island.
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First, this is a series that should be read in order. This is the fifth book in the series and while it can stand alone, it would be rather confusing and have less impact unless you've read the others first. In order the books are: Walking the Perfect Square, Redemption Street, The James Deans, Soul Patch, Empty Ever After, Innocent Monster, Hate Machine and Onion Street (a prequel). That said, as someone who has read the other books, I found this case quite entertaining (in a dark way). In the first book, Walking the Perfect Square, ex-cop and PI Moe Prager is called in to investigate the disappearance of a young man, Patrick Maloney. The resolution of that case has had echoes into everything since, but especially this book. Moe is a philosophical guy, and so he spends some time thinking about the past and the secrets he's kept, as well as the effect of those secrets. Here the past seems closer than ever as Patrick Maloney, long buried, begins to haunt Moe's ex-wife. Is she losing it, or is Patrick really alive? And if it's a conspiracy, who's behind it?
This book, even more than the ones before it, is all about the past and the decisions Moe made in earlier cases. Of all the books, I'd say this is the one most dependent on your having read the others. If you haven't read the previous books, please read no further.
Spoilers: There are many references to previous cases, and rightly so. Moe has always been concerned about the past in general, and in particular the secret he shares with Katy's dad, that the two of them found out her brother Patrick was alive, but when he disappeared again they decided to keep it all a secret. This is the deed that Moe, a good, decent guy in a corrupt world, is most ashamed of, and most fears. All his agonizing over whether he should have told Katy, and if he should now, and what it will do to his marriage .... all that has come to a head, and it was as bad as he'd expected. But now things get even worse. Patrick's grave has been desecrated, and so has his lover Jack's. Moe visits more than a few characters from previous cases as many threads are tied up.
This book is satisfying in that it does wrap up so many stories, but it sadly feels like the beginning of the end, too, and I hate to see the series stop. I hope it means, instead, that Moe is moving on and we'll still be able to hear his delicious noir voice as he soldiers on, bearing the weight of the world on his weary shoulders. I love Moe because he is world weary but at the core hopeful, otherwise why would he struggle so to do the right thing? His literary references and metaphysical opining make Moe the smartest of the beleaguered PIs, on par with the best Scandinavian crime novels, and much more interesting than old school detectives.
Highest recommendation -- but read them in order!
"I didn't watch her leave. I'd already seen that once too often."
Besides being a sort of wrap-up of everything that has gone before (as Coleman states in the afterward), while wiping the slate clean Coleman fashions and intriguing and suspenseful thriller. Someone has desecrated the grave of Moe's ex-wife's brother (the subject of Coleman's first book), and soon Moe realizes that it is not some simple vandal...someone with a serious axe to grind from Moe's past has decided to make his life a living hell, and take his wife and daughter with him. Moe needs all his resources to track down a look-alike for his dead brother in law, who torments his wife to the edge of insanity, and this leads him to backtrack on all his former cases and check up on people who might want he and his family to suffer....or to die, as he finds out the bizarre tormenting goes far beyond simple revenge. While catching up on people who might have revenge on the mind, he discovers several surprises, some dead ends, a wild side-track with a motorcycle gang running a meth lab, and there are several murders and what looks like the death of the main suspect....but Moe isn't satisfied. And because of this, and Moe's curiosity about what is really going on, someone in his circle of family and friends will pay the ultimate price.
As always, his great descriptions (even minor characters stand out fully formed in Coleman's novels), sense of place (New York City and the area are a big player in his novels), and meticulous plotting stand out here as they do in every other Moe Prager tale. Moe is not a flashy or gun-happy detective, but when he plods along looking for an answer, he usually comes to the solution one way or another, even if the answer isn't always pleasant.
The reader has to know that Coleman's books rarely have happy endings, and despite a final death that IMO was a bit unnecessary, this one does spin a surprise at the end that I did not see coming that gives Moe a little hope and good feelings going into the next two novels (Innocent Monster and Hurt Machine), which is good to see. All in all, this is a spectacular achievement as Coleman manages to work aspects of all four of the previous Moe Prager novels into this one, making it very enjoyable if you have kept up with the series. If you haven't picked up a Prager novel before, this is not the one to start with, but it will pay off with a great ending if you read the first four and then finish up with this one.
As other reviewers noted, this is one of a series of books which link to each other. Thankfully, and unlike a few books I've read lately, they are not "trilogies", nor does each end with a stated or implied "continued next time". While they stand alone, because of the ample background information provided in each, I still believe readers would be less enthusiastic in reading any of these books out of sequence.
Other reviewers effectively outlined the primary content and issues with this book. I agreed with those reviewers that found the ending of this one a bit hard to grasp, in part, perhaps, because it transitioned too quickly and to some degree in contrast to the characters he built up in the book. Still, Farrell's books don't close with predictable endings, they move along quickly and keep you guessing - other reasons I've enjoyed them all.