"The Hollow Girl" (Tyrus Books), by Reed Farrel Coleman
The ninth installment in Reed Farrel Coleman's series featuring Moe Prager, an ex-cop turned private detective, finds the protagonist wracked with guilt over the death of his girlfriend, Pam.
Moe says guilt is a permanent infection: "The thing you've done to bruise the universe may fade, but the guilt never does. Not really. Not ever."
So he withdraws from the world, and he drinks.
It's Moe's brother Aaron who rouses him from his stupor, calls him a coward and challenges him to get off the sauce to help an old friend in need.
The old friend is Nancy Lustig, a rich girl loved and lost by Moe three decades earlier. Given Moe's state of mind, she would seem to be the last person he needs back in his life. But she needs him. Her daughter is missing.
Or is she?
The daughter's name is Sloan, but a decade earlier she'd been an Internet sensation as "The Hollow Girl," captivating audiences with soul-searching videos about her own life and hurtful attacks on her mother. Now, as Moe searches for her, she suddenly pops up again online, her attacks crueler than ever.
Is Sloan doing this of her own volition, or is she caught up in someone else's twisted plan?
Moe attacks the high-tech mystery with old-fashioned shoe leather while contending with both his guilt and his confusing feelings about the Hollow Girl's mother.
Coleman says "The Hollow Girl" is the "final Moe Prager mystery, and the ending does make it appear that Moe has given up sleuthing for good. If so, the novel is a fitting conclusion to this intelligent, literary series by a fine writer who has made his reputation both as a mystery writer and a poet.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of three crime novels including "Providence Rag."