After the death of his twenty-year-old son, ex-cop Gus Murphy is searching for a purpose as he struggles to live his life. Eventually, his searching leads to him investigating a pair of dangerous cases.
John Augustus “Gus” Murphy misses his son, John Jr., every day. His world has changed considerably in the past few years. Along with the loss of his son, Gus has also lost his identity as a Suffolk County police officer. Instead, he’s turned in his badge and gun for an ugly uniform and spends his time working as a security guard driving customers from the airport to the New York hotel he works for. Under the tough-looking exterior is a man who’s been kicked hard by life.
An otherwise normal night suddenly takes a terrifying turn when Gus witnesses an interaction between one of the hotel’s customers and a bellman. Shortly after that, he witnesses a murder, inadvertently becoming another loose end for the hitman to clean up.
In addition to the murder he’s now personally involved in, Gus is approached by Micah Spears, whose granddaughter (who went by TL) was killed by a gangbanger named Rondo Salazar. Police have Salazar in custody awaiting sentencing, but that isn’t good enough for Spears, who wants to know why, specifically, his granddaughter was killed.
After showing initial reluctance–which is smoothed over when Father Bill, one of Gus’ longtime friends, vouches for Spears–Gus eventually agrees to play private detective and poke around for answers about Salazar’s motive for killing TL. Due to the events from the last books, nobody on the police force is happy to see Gus swimming in their pool. They don’t want him investigating anything related to their case, which makes Gus’ job even harder. He presses on, in part due to the empathy he feels for Spears. After all, Gus is intimately aware of the pain one feels from losing a loved one and the desire for any answers that might provide a smidgen of closure.
In an odd turn of events, the more Gus uncovers about TL and her relationship with Salazar, the more he realizes things don’t quite add up. Suspecting a larger conspiracy lurking behind the scenes, Gus continues investigating TL’s death and the murder he witnessed. Eventually, the two cases start to overlap, and Gus realizes he was right about a larger conspiracy at work–but he never dreamed it would take such a dangerous and disturbing turn.
Set in the darker side of Long Island than most people are used to reading about and seeing in movies, Coleman’s latest mystery is noir to its core. The only negative is that it takes an unusually long time for the two cases Gus is working to take form, revealing the full picture. Before that, things can get a little confusing, especially for readers who are trying to solve the case before Gus Murphy does.
What You Break is vintage Reed Farrel Coleman, who continues to put out compelling crime novels year after year. While the ending might leave a little more to be desired, the overall plot and character study of a broken man navigating his way through one challenge after another brings an emotional element that readers can relate to.
Author: Reed Farrel Coleman
Series: Gus Murphy #2
Pages: 366 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: February 7, 2017 (Order Now!)