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When it comes to humanist crime fiction, Reed Farrel Coleman sets the bar. His two best known creations, PIs Moe Prager and Gus Murphy, are known for the expression of their feelings. The creation he introduces in his latest, Sleepless City is Nick Ryan who plays it more close to the vest, but carries no less pathos.

Nick works a special job for the N.Y.P.D. He operates as a fixer for the mayor's officer that involves mysterious benefactors, practically all the city's resources at his disposal, and operating in sometimes gray areas to get the job done. The bombing of a cop bar Nick's at, tosses him into a criminal and possibly international conspiracy, involving both sides of the law. As Nick maneuvers through the labyrinth of dirty players, using a few tricks of his own. he is also pursued by a dogged reporter out for her version of truth and justice.

Nick is the coolest and most competent of protagonists Reed has created. He thinks on his feet and is often a few steps ahead of his adversaries. He initially comes off cold and a touch emotionless., but we learn that behavior to be deceiving. Coleman takes what could have been a streetwise version of a men's paperback hero and shapes him with nuance and complexity.

Several ghosts haunt Nick, including his time in the war, his father, and his partner's suicide. Those echoes of his past tear at him as well as the city he serves. As cool and collected as he comes off, a burning rage and sense of justice drive. Knowing the author's M.O., I can't help but feel he is being set up for a fall in future books.

Sleepless City gives us a New York hero with the shades and contradictions of his city. Danger and deception meet him on every street he goes down in the place of Sidney Lumet politics, Lawrence Block settings, and Lou Reed attitude. Perfect Reed Farrel Coleman.

-review by Scott Montgomery


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