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The FOURTH VICTIM Paperback – November 15, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
In this passable whodunit from Spinosa, the sequel to Hose Monkey (2006), Joe Serpe and Bob Healy, ex-cops and former adversaries who are now in the oil-delivery business on Long Island, get on the trail of the Oilman Murderer. The Oilman's fourth victim, Rusty Monaco, like the previous three, is an oil truck driver, shot to death in an isolated area. Serpe and Healy soon find that Monaco, who was also an ex-cop, left behind a huge cache of cash that may be connected to a racially charged suspicious death in HarlemÂ several years earlier. Spinosa, the pseudonym of Shamus-winner Reed Farrel Coleman, adds a conventional love-interest for Healy, an African-American internal affairs officer who risks her professional standing by digging into the past.Â This installment, with its routine shoot-outs, corruption and twists, falls short of the standard set by Coleman's Moe Prager series (Soul Patch, etc.). (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* Former NYPD enemies Joe Serpe and Bob Healy coexist as partners in a Long Island heating-oil business simply by avoiding the fact that Healy’s investigation of crooked cops cost Serpe his job as a narcotics detective. But when someone begins to murder oil delivery drivers, Serpe and Healy feel honor bound to investigate. Spinosa, aka Reed Farrel Coleman, has ginned up a really hard-edged novel set in a wonderfully gritty milieu and filled with fully fleshed characters. The plot lays out a labyrinthine but believable trail of violence, murder, corruption, politics, deep-dyed racism, and big money. Serpe and Healy are a terrific odd couple, but a dozen lesser characters are also compelling, often for their sheer coarseness or loathsomeness. Even Spinosa’s depiction of the fiercely competitive, hardscrabble business of home heating-oil delivery rings with authenticity (the author actually has a commercial license to convey hazmat materials). If that’s not enough, the first line of this fine novel—“At his best, Rusty Monaco was a miserable, self-absorbed prick, and tonight he was paying even less attention than usual to the world outside his head”—is one of the two best first lines this reviewer has come across in 25 years of hard-boiled reading (the opening to James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss is still the best). --Thomas Gaughan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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This is especially the murder of the fourth victim, Rusty Monaco, that hits home in a number of ways. Like Joe and Bob, Rusty was a retired NYPD detective. He was a racist and obnoxious jerk on the NYPD and his two years in the oil business haven’t made him any better at being a decent human being. But, when it counted back when they were police, he stepped up. Joe Serpe can never repay the debt he owes Rusty Monaco. That guilt is a powerful motivator for Joe and before long Joe and Bob are working a murder case with tentacles far beyond the oil heating business.
Tony Spinosa, better known as Reed Farrel Coleman, has penned an excellent sequel to the powerful Hose Monkey. Along with a complex mystery, the author sprinkles in details and depth for all the characters major and minor, and plenty of setting descriptions to bring The Fourth Victim alive for readers. Since some secondary storylines from the earlier book continue here and other aspects are discussed it is best to read this two book set in order starting with Hose Monkey.
If you like gritty crime mystery novels you won’t be disappointed. Highly recommend both books.
I received an ARC for this title back in June of 2008 from Publisher Benjamin Leroy for my use in an objective review. Back then Ben ran Bleak House Books which later became Tyrus Books.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2015
The bodies of five men have been discovered within a short space of time. They had many things in common: "They were all C.O.D. oil drivers who had been assaulted making night-time deliveries in high crime areas. They all had at least two thousand dollars in cash on their persons. They were all shot with the same 9mm weapon. They were all dead." A serial killer is suspected. What brings these crimes to the attention of Serpe and Healy is the identity of the eponymous fourth victim, another disgraced former cop named Rusty Monaco, a man who had apparently been just about to finalize the purchase of a Florida condo. More importantly, he had once saved Serpe's life when they were both still cops. Serpe feels he owes Monaco, and Healy feels he owes Serpe, thereby giving rise to their investigation into Monaco's murder and, by extension, those of the other four men as well. That investigation appears to hinge on a cold case, a murder which took place shortly after September 11, 2001, when the police department's attention was understandably focused on other matters.
The ensuing tale is one of "greed, blackmail, corruption, vengeance, racism, fear, and what righteous men do in the face of a world gone wrong" [to quote from the back of the book, on which description I cannot improve]. It is told in absorbing manner, with well-drawn characters, producing a solid and satisfying novel. This is the second in this series, the first being "Hose Monkey," which deals with the events which transform Serpe and Healy from enemies into friends, and which I will now seek out to read. I'm sure it will prove to be equally enjoyable.