Ed McBain: Mischief

July 20, 2014

Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct mysteries have always been on my list of enjoyable detective stories: this one, however, disappointed, for the first time…

I’d collected a large number of these novels about thirty years ago, but foolishly got rid of them when I needed to have a clear-out: there’s a message there! I’ve been gradually re-acquiring some, and have realised that the earlier ones are much better; this one is a relatively late one, and not helped by the feeling that the author seems to have felt the need gratuitously to up the level of sex and bad language in order to keep up with the pack, whereas he has an interesting enough setting and group of characters to keep his readers hooked.

Continued character development always helps retain interest in a series of such stories, but there is none in this novel; they could be any detectives rather than the personalities that were built up in earlier novels, and McBain does have some interesting characters among his precinct detectives. The plots are bitty and rather haphazard; there are two main ones running in parallel, one gratuitously racist and in rather poor taste, I thought, and the other verging on the ridiculous; neither was properly clued or investigated, and one was left hanging at the end so that the character could perhaps be used again: I know Conan Doyle did this with Moriarty, but the Deaf Man had already been used once before…

I shall now be concentrating on the earlier books in the series as I trawl second-hand bookshops.

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