What You Break

What You Break

Mysterious Book Report No. 288

by John Dwaine McKenna

One year ago—May 2016—in MBR No. 246, we alerted our readers to a new, compelling and haunting crime fiction character by the name of Gus Murphy.  He’s the embodiment of the noir persona, a man dealing with a boatload of personal pain and grief, while living and operating on the gritty south shore of New York’s Long Island . . . a place of crime and gang infested streets as far removed from the glitzy, super-rich north shore hamlets on Long Island Sound, as ice cream is from burnt meat.  Now, he’s back, in the second installment of what looks to be a long-running and well-read series that will finally get Reed Farrel Coleman the long overdue Edgar Award he so richly deserves.

What You Break, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $27.00, 357 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-17304-2)  finds the  beleaguered John  Augustus Murphy  still living at the Paragon Motel in Suffolk County, still trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered life and still driving the courtesy bus to the airport on the night shift.  He eats his personal pain, mourning the untimely death of his son and the breakup of his marriage internally, self-medicating himself with alcohol and a two-pack-a-day habit . . . his only friends are Slava, the mysterious east European, Ukrainian or Russian night doorman, and Felix, the desk clerk.

Gus’s self-induced fog of grief is lifted temporarily, when he’s coerced by a shady billionaire into finding out why his granddaughter was stabbed to death, with promises—and an uncashed $50,000 check—to fund a foundation in John Murphy Junior’s name.  The Suffolk County Police Department has the girl’s killer in jail, but he won’t talk and her grandfather is desperate to know why.  At the same time, Slava’s past deeds come back to haunt him, demanding retribution.  When Gus  witnesses a cold-blooded execution, both his life and Salva’s hangs in the balance, forcing Gus to evade the cops, street gangs and the relentless Russian mercenary who wants to kill him.  As Gus digs deeper, the mysterious twists and turns pry open doors on a past that’s better left forgotten . . . where sleeping monsters start to awake . . . forcing Gus into a Faustian bargain with the Devil, as he struggles to save them all.  The intricate plot will leave you guessing to the end, and the tough-guy action will keep you focused on page after page until the electrifying conclusion as Mr. Coleman demonstrates his absolute mastery of the crime fiction craft.  This one’s five-stars all the way! We just hope that the CWA judges are paying attention!

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