Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What You Break

What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman
Penguin Publishing Group: 2/7/17
hardcover: 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780399173042
Gus Murphy Series #2

What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman is a very highly recommended second detective novel featuring ex-cop Gus Murphy.

Gus is still working as security for the Paragon Hotel in Suffolk County and part time courtesy driver to Long Island’s MacArthur Airport. Gus is asked by his friend Bill Kilkenny, an ex-priest, to meet with Micah Spears and take on an investigation into why Spears granddaughter, Linh Trang, was brutally murdered. The cops have the man who did it, suspect, Asesinos gang member Rondo Salazar, but no one knows why he did it and he's not talking. Spears offers Gus two big incentives to find out the answers: 2 large check, one to fund a youth sports association in John Jr.'s name, his late son, and another to fund research at Stony Brook University Hospital.

At the same time it appears that his reticent friend who also works at the Paragon, Slava Podalak, is in trouble. A man with a Russian accent who appears to be on the run has arrived and he and Slava took off together. Gus followed, saw them pick up a third man, and go to his house. After Slava and the first man left, Gus saw the third man gunned down in front of his house. The cops are now questioning Gus when it's reported that his car was near the scene, but Gus doesn't give them any help while he's trying to protect Slava. But when a mysterious Russian hitman implies Maggie's (Gus's girlfriend) life is in danger if Gus doesn't provide him information, Gus needs to protect her too.

Gus Murphy is a great character and I'm pleased to see him back in this second novel. Again, the writing is great, the plot is tight, and the action fast-pace. While I didn't like What You Break quite as much as the first Gus Murphy novel, Where It Hurts, we're talking 4.5 to 5, so I still liked it quite a bit. It is just as engrossing as the first and yes, I stayed up way too late to finish it. There are two great factors that make Coleman's Gus Murphy novels so appealing. The first is the character of Gus, who is flawed. He's broken, still hurting, and it seems that memories and emotional minefields are everywhere for him.

Gus is smart, though, which leads to the second fact: they are well written and thoughtful. I like that we don't always know what Gus is thinking, that he plays his cards close to his chest. I would expect that of him and appreciate it in the character. When the cases eventually, unexpectedly collide, it is very clever. The end is a bit of a shocker, but it leads to some serious anticipation for the next Gus Murphy novel. You kind of want to tell Gus, "Be careful, Boy-o, with your heart and yourself."

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Penguin Publishing Group.

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