Book Review: The Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman

16 Jan

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Series: Moe Prager #7

Publisher: Tyrus Books

Pub date: 18 Sep 2011

Source:Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis (From GoodReads)

At a pre-wedding party for his daughter Sarah, Moe Prager is approached by his ex-wife and former PI partner Carmella Melendez. It seems Carmella’s estranged sister Alta has been murdered, but no one in New York City seems to care. Why? Alta, a FDNY EMT, and her partner had months earlier refused to give assistance to a dying man at a fancy downtown eatery. Moe decides to help Carmella as a means to distract himself from his own life and death struggle. Making headway on the case is no mean feat as no one, including Alta’s partner Maya Watson, wants to cooperate. Moe chips away until he discovers a cancer roiling just below the surface, a cancer whose symptoms include bureaucratic greed, sexual harassment, and blackmail. But is any of it connected to Alta’s brutal murder?


Moe Prager is a brilliant character and a tenacious detective. Hurt Machine is the seventh in this series and I only wish I had met Prager eariler in, what I can only imagine was an explosive career. Not only is Prager long-retired and dealing with issues of aging, his doctor has given him a very unpleasant prognosis.

So when Carmella, his ex-wife asks him to look into this case, just weeks before his daughter’s wedding, he takes it on as a means to distract himself from the scary inevitable. Why did Alta and her partner refuse medical assistance? What were they doing at this fancy expensive restaurant? And was Alta’s murder in any way related to this incident?

The mystery itself is rather complicated and the people that Prager goes to for information are not forthcoming, The Fire Department is livid that Alta and her partner Maya have given the whole department a bad reputation. Maya Watson has broken under all the stress and the hounding by the press and is a reluctant witness. Other people that Prager digs up give him little driblets of information. On the whole, the case doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Nothing that Prager finds out seems to show Alta is a good light, and he worries about how he can tell her sister this.

As the investigation progresses, Prager finds many suspects and deals with the seedy side of life. Through the course of this investigation, Prager also deals with questions of death and hurt – the way we inflict hurt on each other and the inevitable reality of death. He finds himself thinking a lot about life, lies, hurt and death in a way that slips right in with the story.


Highly recommended for fans of crime fiction. This story worked rather well as a stand-alone, but I suspect I would have got even more out of it if I had followed the series in order.

Rating: 4*

*See my Rating policy

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One Response to “Book Review: The Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman”

  1. Shivanee @ Novel Niche January 21, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    This definitely sounds like one of those reads that increases in pleasure and immersion once you’ve read from the beginning, but it sounds like you enjoyed it no less for having picked up on the later end of things. As with many crime/police procedural fiction titles, I can easily visualize this working well as a televised series. A lovely review!

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