Friday, May 04, 2018

FFB Review: Empty Ever After: A Moe Prager Mystery by Reed Farrell Coleman

Last week while at The University of Texas at Dallas with my youngest son (yes, he is in graduate school, and, no, he does not drive yet –long story) I spent part of my time reading the first issue of Down & Out: the Magazine (yes, I know it has been out quite some time). I was rolling along and then I hit a Moe Prager story by Reed Farrell Coleman. I almost started crying right there in Green Hall (yes, I trigger very easily these days). See, my parents introduced me to the Moe Prager series a very long time ago when I was well and I could walk. They were huge fans until the end. Mom especially. Mom knew he was not real, but she loved the character all the same. I used to kid her that if he lived next door, Dad might get a tad jealous. It could have been really bad if Tom Selleck lived on the other side of this old house. Anyway, my parents were big time fans and they got me hooked with Walking The Perfect Square all those years ago.

Long time readers of this blog know that I first reviewed that book way back here in 2004 when my Mom and maybe three folks in the country actually read my blog. I ran that review again as an FFB Review here back in 2014. I suspect I have done it again other times here, but the search function on blogger is pretty worthless these days.

That brings me to today. For this first Friday in May 2018 I blow the dust off a review that first ran way back in 2008. Empty Ever After is the fifth book in the series and near as I can tell, I never ran the review again after the first time it appeared here on the blog. A decade later seems to be good timing as the past is always a major theme around here. After you check out the review, make sure you head over to Patti’s blog and check out the full list.


The past has always been a major theme and driving force of the Moe Prager series by Reed Farrel Coleman. The author is a winner of the Shamus, Barry and Anthony awards and has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Gumshoe. This latest effort, scheduled to be released in April, continues the first and no doubt will continue the second as this book is powerful, very good, and disturbing all at the same time.

The major secret stayed safe for over twenty years and provided the backbone of a story arc that has traveled the first four novels of the series. The shattering aftermath of the revelation provides the springboard of the current novel as Patrick Maloney won’t stay dead and buried. The Maloney family plot has been desecrated and the bones of his ex brother in law, Patrick Maloney are missing. Moses’ ex-wife Katy is distraught as one would expect and it is left to Sarah, their now grown daughter, to somehow bridge the distant gap between the parents. In so doing, she contacts Moe and before long, Moe is standing at graveside in the year 2000 inspecting the scene for himself.

A former NYPD officer who had to leave the force after a knee injury as well as a rather unorthodox P.I. in the few cases he handled over the years, Moe finds himself at a crossroads in his life. Multiple changes in a relatively short period of time have left him feeling adrift and alone. The desecration of the family plot gives him something to do and a focus for his days. From the beginning, the desecration of the plot which wasn’t just limited to the removal of Patrick’s body, has him thinking long and hard about his past, the people in it, and the secrets he has kept over the years as well as the secrets he has learned of others.

Soon, Moe learns of another grave desecration in Dayton, Ohio this time with links to Patrick and himself. Moe realizes someone is targeting what is left of his family and they are using Katy as a means to get at him. It is working as Katy’s mental state worsens due to repeated shocks to her already fragile system. Seeing her dead brother outside of her home and hearing him on the phone pushes her steadily towards the brink of insanity. Moe desperately seeks to find those of the living responsible and to bury the past once and fore all.

This book is incredibly disturbing and at the same time a very disturbing read. There is a certain depressing relentless series of events that leads to a shocking conclusion that comes at a total surprise to the reader and yet when the book is finished, inevitable and obvious. It is a book that could serve as a fitting ending to a series and yet could mark a huge turning point and a new way forward in a series. One doesn’t know quite how to take this very good book as it could easily go either way.

What is very clear is that this book goes into extensive detailed commentary about past events, past cases, and past relationships that have been covered in earlier books in the series. Much of this book goes into such descriptions of past events with the actual event described as well as all the ramifications of the event. Such detailed examination not only allows Moe to consider his past, secrets, and his responsibility but other themes that have been part of the series.

In so doing, Author Reed Farrel Coleman continues his history of evolving the Moe Prager character. Unlike some main characters that seem to remain relatively static novel after novel, Moe has changed from book to book. While his basic core beliefs have remained the same, his application of them and his view of the world has changed. The result is a living, breathing, humanely flawed major character that continues to evolve as does the series and another very good book.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2008, 2018

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