Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: What You Break

Summary: Former Suffolk County cop Gus Murphy returns to prowl the meaner streets of Long Island’s darkest precincts with a Russian mercenary at his back in the stunning second installment of Reed Farrel Coleman’s critically acclaimed, Edgar-nominated series.

Gus Murphy and his girlfriend, Magdalena, are put in harm’s way when Gus is caught up in the distant aftershocks of heinous crimes committed decades ago in Vietnam and Russia. Gus’s ex-priest pal, Bill Kilkenny, introduces him to a wealthy businessman anxious to have someone look more deeply into the brutal murder of his granddaughter. Though the police already have the girl’s murderer in custody, they have been unable to provide a reason for the killing. The businessman, Spears, offers big incentives if Gus can supply him with what the cops cannot—a motive.

Later that same day, Gus witnesses the execution of a man who has just met with his friend Slava. As Gus looks into the girl’s murder and tries to protect Slava from the executioner’s bullet, he must navigate a minefield populated by hostile cops, street gangs, and a Russian mercenary who will stop at nothing to do his master’s bidding. But in trying to solve the girl’s murder and save his friend, Gus may be opening a door into a past that was best left forgotten. Can he fix the damage done, or is it true that what you break you own…forever? -- Putnam

A little over a year ago, I reviewed WHERE IT HURTS by Reed Farrel Coleman. It was the first book in his Gus Murphy series, and I adored the novel. Gus Murphy was a dark and complex character, and I quickly understood why Mr. Coleman was such an accomplished writer. His prose and his ability to weave a mystery are stellar... so it was no surprise that I wanted to read the second book in the series, WHAT YOU BREAK.

WHAT YOU BREAK returns with ex-cop Gus Murphy. Gus is currently working as a van driver and part-time security guard at a hotel near the airport; however, he can't seem to stay away from fighting crime. This time, Gus's friend (and ex-priest) Bill introduces him to Spears, a wealthy man who wants the murder of his granddaughter solved. The man responsible for her death is a gang member and currently in prison for the crime, but Spears wants Gus to figure out the motive because the cops consider the case closed.

As if that's not enough, Gus is a witness for the murder of a new customer at the hotel... a man who had just met with is good friend and co-worker Slava. Gus felt something was off, so he followed the man... and then saw the cold-blooded murder. Slava's background has always been a secret to Gus, but Gus has always suspected that there's more to Slava's past that he'd ever admit; and now Gus finds himself knee-deep in trying to save Slava from a dangerous Russian mercenary.

I thoroughly enjoyed WHAT YOU BREAK and I've come to really like Mr. Coleman's writing. His characters and books are rather dark, and probably something you'd expect Booking Pap Pap to read and review, but I've found that I really appreciate his story-telling skills. In both books, I've been impressed with is complicated mysteries, as well as the twists and turns; and I like how the different storylines eventually come together.

One of my favorite things about these books in the Gus Murphy series is the character of Gus. Gus is a terrific character and I find him so intriguing. Gus is not only an ex-Suffolk County cop, but he's also a man suffering from severe grief after the sudden death of his teenage son. His all-encompassing grief has caused him to lose his wife and family, and he's a bit of a pitiful man at times. Although he's broken, I just love him. He's smart and funny (at times) and so very complex... and there's no doubt that he still has all of his cop instincts.

Another aspect of this novel that I really like is how he brings the setting to life. The book takes place on Long Island and he definitely shows its underbelly with his descriptions of the airport, buildings, streets, and gangs. Like Gus, the Long Island shown in this novel is damaged and has fallen from its former past glory.

I was also extremely impressed with the mysteries in WHAT YOU BREAK. I have a feeling that a more perceptive reader might have figured things out a bit earlier than I did, but I was kept guessing for the majority of the novel. I love how the stories eventually came together, and I'd say that I was satisfied with the conclusion. Because the novel was fairly dark, I like that everything wasn't wrapped up neatly with a big red bow -- it just wouldn't have fit the tone of the book.

WHAT YOU BREAK isn't the typical mystery that I feature on Mystery Mondays, but it's a very good one that will appeal to fans of noir. I highly recommend WHAT YOU BREAK and I look forward to future installments in the Gus Murphy series.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I am pretty sure I have one of Coleman's books here and now I'm wondering why I haven't read it. This sounds terrific!