Countdown to the MysteryPeople Top 100: Reed Farrel Coleman’s Top 20 Mysteries

We are quickly approaching the unveiling of our list of the MysteryPeople Top 100 Crime & Suspense Novels, which will occur at MysteryPeople’s Fifth Anniversary Celebration on November 7th. The final list is culled from submissions by many of our favorite authors, and as the anniversary comes up, we’ll be posting each many of these Top 20 lists on our blog. Last week, we brought you two very different lists from Craig Johnson and Janice Hamrick.

Our next author is Reed Farrel Coleman, best known for his Moe Prager series, and and his respectful yet innovative continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone novels. Reed is known for the deft exploration of human emotion in his work and it appears to be reflected in what he reads. His list is a solid introduction to the noir canon, past and present. All descriptions below come from the hands of Mr. Coleman himself.

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MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE HOLLOW GIRL

hollow girl

MysteryPeople May Pick Of The Month: The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman

It’s rare for an author to finish with their series character. Usually, an author’s life ends before the adventures of their creation come to a conclusion. With The Hollow Girl, however, Reed Farrel Coleman actually puts his acclaimed private eye character, Moe Prager, to bed. Suffice to say, our hero leaves the stage as elegantly as he entered it.

In Hurt Machine, Moe was in a pretty good place, connecting with his daughter, Katy, and with a new love in his life, Pam. Apparently, Coleman wasn’t done with him. After Pam is killed in a car accident, Moe ends up drunk, jeopardizing his fragile relationship with Kay by saying one of the most heinous things he has ever uttered.

To get away from drinking, Moe relents and takes on a case. He’s then hired by Nancy Lustig, who he first met in the debut novel, Walking The Perfect Square. Back then, she was a homely girl, whom he felt an attraction to. When he met her again in Empty Ever After, Nancy had undergone plastic surgery and hit the gym. It was as if the inner beauty traded for the outer, leaving Nancy as a bitter woman.

Now, Nancy’s estranged daughter has gone missing. Almost two decades ago, the same daughter was one of the first Internet sensations, known as The Hollow Girl, though she ended her fifteen minutes of fame with a controversial fake suicide. With help from friends and allies from previous cases, Moe searches through the New York acting community and the girl’s old friends for more information. It isn’t long before new Hollow Girl posts appear on the Internet, which indicate that she’s possibly being tortured.

Identity plays a large part in this story. There are characters with fake names. There are pasts which have been changed or erased. This theme is epitomized by the reconnection of Moe and Nancy, two people lost to who they were and are, leaving us to question the hollow part that is in all of us. It’s a somewhat ironic end for a character who is often defined by his lack of  definition, but it’s Moe’s first few steps toward his own identity that make it a pitch perfect note to finish on.

The Hollow Girl ends the Moe Prager series as an ellipsis rather than an exclamation point. It’s perfect for a character who reflects us in so many ways. There is no loud or fond farewell. Hurt Machine may have given us a glimpse of the ending we wanted, but it is in The Hollow Girl that Moe gets the ending he needed.

Copies of The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via

Top 6 Books To Look Forward to In 2014

2014 is looking like a great year for crime fiction fans. It’s so good that while I was making a top 5 list of books I’m looking forward to, I realized I had to make it 6.


1. Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman

This will be a bittersweet read, since it will be the last book featuring my favorite contemporary private eye, Moe Prager. Moe is one of the most fully realized characters out there and this series contains some of the most poignant books I’ve ever read. I may be wiping tears as I turn pages. On Sale 5/18/14. Pre-order here.


2. Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

As much as I love Hilary’s Lily Moore series, this novel of blackmail, kidnapping, and bad relationships sounds like the kind of book I’ve been waiting for her to write. Leaning her towards darker short fiction, this could be the Gone Girl of 2014. On Sale 4/15/14. Pre-order here.


james ellroy3. Perfidia by James Ellroy

Ellroy goes back to The City Of Angels to revisit some of the characters from his LA Quartet in their earlier days. This could be a return to the sprawling, stylish, down and dirty Ellroy we all got hooked on. On Sale 9/9/14. Pre-order here. 



4. The Poor Boy’s Game by Dennis Tafoya

I’ve been waiting years for Dennis Tafoya to come out with a new book – read Dope Thief to know why. This tale of an ex-US Marshall protecting her sister and step mother from her father on the streets of Philadelphia should have all the gritty heart I’ve come to expect from him and be well worth the wait. On Sale 4/29/14. Pre-order here.


5. In The Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McGinty

The final installment of The Troubles Trilogy featuring Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop in Thatcher-era Belfast. My only hope is that McGinty will find a way to continue with this complex character and his biting sense of humor. On Sale 3/4/14. Pre-order here. 


6. The Fever by Megan Abbott

A new book by Megan Abbott. That’s all that needs to be said. On Sale 6/17/14. Pre-order here.

Size Does and Doesn’t Matter


Reed Farrel Coleman has gone compact in a couple of ways. Raven Books Rapid Reads, a publisher specializing in short books for teaching adult literacy as well as providing for readers who would like the experience of a full novel in one or two sittings, hired him for a series. The character he gave them was Gulliver Dowd, a tough New York private eye, who is also a dwarf.

Dowd’s height and history have a lot to do with his toughness. Born an outcast, he has been having to prove himself all his life. That created an awfully big chip on his shoulder.

purchase hereWe learn in the first book, Dirty Work, that his police officer sister died in an unsolved murder. He received combat training from Ahmed, an ex-SEAL who sometimes acts as his back-up. And, he works as a Private Investigator to support himself on other people’s cases so he can develop the skills necessary to solve his own case: what happened to his sister.

If this sounds overly pulpy or comedic, you haven’t read Reed Farrel Coleman before. The books have the humanity and heart of his Moe Prager series. Gulliver’s tough guy attitude is something he uses to keep his romantic nature at bay. Anybody who has felt like an outsider will be able to identify with him. You root for him to find love and cringe when that chip on his shoulder gets in the way.

purchase hereIn the latest Gulliver Dowd story, Valentino Pier, his good heart is working overtime. He helps a homeless boy find his missing dog, Ugly, a fitting name for the bug-eyed beast. After finding poor, mangy Ugly, he returns the dog to the boy. However, later Dowd is shocked to discover the boy has been beaten so severely he was put into a coma. Dowd’s search for the perpetrators leads him to find a unique brand of criminal. It also sheds new light on his sister’s murder while teasing with a possible relationship with a veterinary’s assistant.

When I heard what Reed was doing for Rapid Reads, I thought it was an odd match. A writer with a background in poetry known for his command of the language writing “easy reads”? It proved to be the perfect choice.

Coleman knows which words to choose for clarity, impact, and emotion, while never writing down to the reader. The tightness and accessibility give each book the feeling of a great episode from a seventies PI show like The Rockford Files or Harry O.

If only he could write them as fast as I read them.