It is Friday once again and I happily return to what we primarily do here---review books. This week’s post is on a very good book you may never have heard of. Without further ado, I give you my review of Hose Monkey written by Tony Spinosa (Reed Farrel Coleman).
Mid February 2004 finds Long Island, New York cold and dreary. So too is the life of former NYPD Detective Joe Serpe. His life is a wreckage of shattered dreams and hopes. His fifteen year marriage has collapsed with no hope of reconciliation. His former partner committed suicide during a police corruption investigation that took both of their jobs and ended any chance of having a career in law enforcement. Then, there is his brother, Vinny, a firefighter who died running for his life as Tower One fell. Vinny had been the only one to stand by him while his life crumbled and it was Vinny who took him into his home where he had no other place to go but the streets. Vinny’s home became Joe Serpe’s with Vinny’s death and his voice still plays daily on the outgoing message on the phone answering machine. Joe Serpe’s existence has shrunk down to living as a ghost of his former self while he delivers home heating oil by day and drinks Vodka heavily each night.
Also dealing with loss is Bob Healy who lost his wife Mary to pancreatic cancer. His period of loss has been shorter, only six months, but it is just as painfully deep. He’s trying to adjust, not only to her loss, but to doing all the things she used to routinely take care of which includes getting the heating oil delivered. He also was the lead Internal Affairs Detective on Serpe’s case.
By coincidence or stroke of luck, Joe Serpe ends up making a delivery to Healy’s home. That visit rekindles bitterness between the two men as well as long unfinished business. At almost the same time a mentally handicapped coworker of Joe’s is killed. The local police figure it to be the work of gangs. Joe disagrees and before long Joe Serpe and Bob Healy are in contact and soon grudgingly working together to find justice for the dead while trying to bury their burdens from the past.
You may not have heard of Tony Spinosa. If you have heard of Reed Farrel Coleman the author who has a slew of awards for his Moe Prager series (Walking The Perfect Square and others)
then you will be interested in his pseudonym Tony Spinosa. This book is a far different book than the Moe Prager series though familiar themes are again present here.
Grittier in all aspects, this first novel in the Joe Serpe series features tough language, graphic violence and a man at the proverbial end of the line in many ways. Joe is just going through the motions of a bare existence that is empathetically painful for the reader. His depression and anger at the world fueled nightly by Vodka figuratively drips off of the pages in the first half of the book.
Guilt is a powerful motivator and Joe has plenty to feel guilty about. Love is a powerful motivator as well and that works on Joe almost as well as the guilt does. Once Joe begins to come alive as a human being again along with being an investigator, he becomes a threat to others. Readers quickly learn just how good a cop Joe was back in the day.
Written in a third person tough guy style far different than the Moe Prager series, this complex intriguing read blends plenty of mystery, violence, and the beginnings of a romance into a hard hitting story.
Bleak House Books (Big Earth Publishing)
My sincere thanks to the staff of the Irving Public Library in Irving, Texas who sent a copy of the book to my local library in Plano, Texas. Interlibrary loan is a wonderful thing.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2009, 2011