Last Words-A Coleridge Taylor Mystery by Rich Zahradnik

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Last Words-A Coleridge Taylor Mystery by Rich Zahradnik
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (237 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

In March of 1975, as New York City hurtles toward bankruptcy and the Bronx burns, newsman Coleridge Taylor roams police precincts and ERs. He is looking for the story that will deliver him from obits, his place of exile at the Messenger-Telegram. Ever since he was demoted from the police beat for inventing sources, the 34-year-old has been a lost soul. A break comes at Bellevue, where Taylor views the body of a homeless teen picked up in the Meatpacking District. Taylor smells a rat: the dead boy looks too clean, and he’s wearing a distinctive Army field jacket. A little digging reveals that the jacket belonged to a hobo named Mark Voichek and that the teen was a spoiled society kid up to no good, the son of a city official. Taylor’s efforts to protect Voichek put him on the hit list of three goons who are willing to kill any number of street people to cover tracks that just might lead to City Hall. Taylor has only one ally in the newsroom, young and lovely reporter Laura Wheeler. Time is not on his side. If he doesn’t wrap this story up soon, he’ll be back on the obits page—as a headline, not a byline.

If you like your mysteries on the gritty side I’d say this one’s definitely for you. The opening drew me in with the down on his luck, Coleridge Taylor finding what could be his ticket out of writing obituaries for his employer. He’s easily likeable and along with this main character you start to think something isn’t right when he stumbles across the body of a teenager who supposedly froze to death…but did he?

From that moment on I was hooked. All the characters are well-drawn and although I’m not always a fan of mysteries with a corruption and hit-list type theme, this one did keep me reading just to find out if I was right about my theories as to how far the corruption went and would Coleridge pay the price for his inquisitiveness.

Mr. Zahradnik did a great job portraying the color and culture of the time. If you want to read about a slice of New York history during the 1970s then you’d probably enjoy this mystery for that reason alone.

It’s fast paced and the dialogue is natural sounding and I felt true to that era. With so many books now set during modern times with its cell phones and all the new gadgetry that can help a sleuth solve the crime, I found this one a refreshing change and will look for more in this series.

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