In his seventh appearance (Innocent Monster, 2010, etc.), Moe Prager copes with an old love, a complex murder and a belly-full of trouble.
On the opening page of the novel, Moe exits his oncologist’s office thinking about death in a way he never has before. Less abstractly, that is. A newly identified stomach tumor, in all probability malignant, has a way of concentrating attention. Not that Moe was ever a man to approach life blithely. “ ‘Hurt, pain…they’re God’s way of letting you know he loves you,’ ” says a friend, an Auschwitz survivor, encapsulating a worldview Moe long ago tailored to fit himself. And yet right now there are good things in Moe’s life. There’s the pre-wedding party he’s throwing for his cherished daughter Sarah, for instance, at which the estranged love of his life makes an unexpected appearance. Well, Carmella Melendez’s appearance may in truth be a rather dubious “good,” but there’s no question about her blood-stirring impact. Ex-partner in the PI firm they started together, ex-lover, ex-wife, who left him desolate when she walked out on their marriage, Carmella now has a job she begs Moe to do. Won’t he please look into the murder of her older sister? It was a story the media had recently feasted on, a homicide that many saw compelling reasons for believing was justified. Moe squirms a bit, but this is Carm after all, and he signs on. As his investigation deepens, however, he discovers connections that surprise and shock him, links to dehumanized people and sociopathic behavior that one would be hard put not to label pure evil. More and more, he finds himself double-thinking his cancer: its pathology, yes, but as a metaphor, too. In both cases, the effect is heart-sinking.
Though once or twice he crosses that tricky line between Weltschmerz and cry-baby, Moe Prager remains basically irresistible.