Friday, October 8, 2010

INNOCENT MONSTER - Reed Farrel Coleman

FIRST LINE: "Katy's blood was no longer fresh on my hands and after 9/11 people seemed to stop taking notice."

Moe Prager returns in his sixth book of the series. This time around his daughter Sarah breaks her estrangement with Moe to ask him for help finding Sashi Bluntstone, the missing daughter of her childhood friend. Sashi is eleven years old and has been missing almost a month when Sarah approaches Moe. Sashi also happens to be a great art prodigy who has been painting since she was four years old. The time elapsed since her disappearance coupled with the publicity of the case make it less than appealing to Moe, who hasn't worked a case in six years. But his desire to have his daughter back in his life drives his decision to try to find Sashi. As Moe dives head first into the New York art world, he discovers an inordinate amount of ugliness in a realm that is supposed to celebrate beauty.

Every book in the Moe Prager series has left an imprint on my reading soul. INNOCENT MONSTER may very well have left the biggest and strongest of those imprints. Few series have consistently had such a strong effect on me as a reader and as a person. But with Reed Farrel Coleman's award-winning series, that effect isn't a result of the plot ideas themselves but more Coleman's style of writing and his approach to those plot ideas. 

Moe is a series character who is not only searching for lost people but he's searching for his own identity. In INNOCENT MONSTER we're seeing him come more to terms with that identity. And Moe is written in such a way that the reader can't help but look at him/herself as Moe makes his self-discoveries. That's a pretty powerful connection between reader and book. Which in turn pulls the reader into the story more as a participant than as an outsider watching what's going on.

INNOCENT MONSTER is populated with a multitude of wonderfully colorful, rich characters who have been affected and shaped by their environments. All of that dimension comes through whether the character appears once or a hundred times in the novel. Coleman says that each person is the center of his or her own universe. Even though INNOCENT MONSTER is written in first person from Moe's perspective, Coleman still manages to take us to the center of each character's universe. While we may not always agree with a character's motives, we can understand them and thereby better understand the characters. The other task this accomplishes is painting each character as a possible suspect. Then the journey through the plot becomes a house of mirrors.

The plot of INNOCENT MONSTER is daring and powerful. Coleman has shown that he isn't afraid to venture into sensitive subject matter. He also isn't afraid to go against the grain to achieve his goal. Steeped in complex themes and moving symbolism, INNOCENT MONSTER is a timeless tale of humanity.

The Moe Prager books are ones that I know I will re-read many times because there is so much to digest in every part of every book. As with the previous books in the series, at the conclusion of INNOCENT MONSTER I found a plethora of ideas and situations and questions spiraling around in my head. There was much I wanted to process and ponder. Questions I was asking myself. This is simply not a book that will leave you alone once you've finished it. Those are the best kind.

INNOCENT MONSTER is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-1-935562-20-7) from Tyrus Books.

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Jenn's Bookshelves October 8, 2010 at 8:36 AM  

You've recommended this series to me numerous times, but this review has solidified my need to start reading it NOW!

Naomi Johnson October 8, 2010 at 5:59 PM  

I thought I would have had my copy long before now. I think that lady down the street is getting my mail.

kathy d. October 9, 2010 at 4:07 PM  

I was just discussing Bouchercon over at Detectives Beyond Borders, in the hopes that those who go can bring back reports on panels and news, for those of us who cannot attend.

And I mentioned that you are probably going (then learned you have panels) and that you write excellent report backs on conference news.

So I look forward to your reports and best wishes on your panels.

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