I thought this was nicely setup. We see just enough of Mike Reardon to humanize him before he's killed; Steve Carella and Bush are beat detectives who catch the case; they crack wise with the homicide detectives on the scene before they turn the body over and realize it's their colleague who's been killed. McBain's a pro with a crisp prose style. All that's in the first fourteen pages.
My edition is a reprint with an introduction by McBain from 1989. McBain, under his legal, though not birth name, of Evan Hunter, was already a successful author: he'd written Blackboard Jungle, the basis of the 1955 movie. The introduction is fun. McBain touts himself as the originator of the police procedural. Perhaps that's not perfectly true--John Creasey/J. J. Marric's first Gideon novel came out the year before--but it's close to true in any case, and McBain envisioned from the start a sort of collective hero, with different detectives of the 87th Precinct taking the lead in different cases, in different novels, which is pretty unique. He talks about the research he did to start the series, pestering actual New York City cops before deciding--with delight--he would just make up the city of Isola where the series takes place.
McBain's grittier than the cozies and even most of the PI novels that preceded him; still it's not giving much away to say that the culprit is neither some recent release from the state pen, nor (though Savage the newspaperman promotes this theory) some cop-hating gang member. Those are both red herrings and the solution is more mystery-novel-ish than either of those possibilities. I've read 8 or 10 out of the 55 in the series and I'd say that's generally true of McBain.
But no spoilers. I wish I could say the same of Wikipedia, though. I might have expected (and didn't read until I finished the novel) that the article on the book would include spoilers; I was a little dismayed though that the general article on the 87th Precinct series, which I did look at halfway through, gave away the solution. Grr. Still it was fun, even if I did know--before I was supposed to--whodunnit.
It was also fun to see the series at the start. Cotton Hawes and Meyer Meyer don't feature in this one but Steve Carella does; he goes on to appear in a number of them. We see him courting Teddy and the marriage is planned, but hasn't yet taken place, before the end of the book.
It's the week of #1956Club! Thanks to Simon and Kaggsy for hosting.
I've been aware of McBain's books for a long time, but I've never read any of them. He sounds like an author I would like.ReplyDelete
I think you would! My tastes tend to be a little cozier, but these have plenty of thrills and not too much blood as well as good plots.Delete
i followed the careers of Carella and friends for a while about forty years ago, but got distracted eventually and (i think) a bit stultified with the series... it's a good one, tho, if a person is new to it...ReplyDelete
I've read them on a catch as catch can basis--I've liked them, but I don't know that I would hunt them all down or anything. This one was fun, though.Delete
I loved my re-read of this one, and like you enjoyed encoutering the 87th right at the start. The whole ensemble cast thing was one of the elements I loved from the start. And isn't he an economic yet effective writer!ReplyDelete
It was my first read of this one & it was definitely fun. The ensemble cast is a pretty unique thing and it so works. In the introduction to mine he was pretty proud of having the idea--and rightly so.Delete
I'm definitely a cosy-not-gritty person, but interesting to see this and Christie's Dead Man's Folly published in the same year!ReplyDelete
I'm much more cosy than gritty myself. This stays on the good line for me, but is also why I haven't made an effort to read the entire series...Delete
I think I've mentioned elsewhere that I've just read one of his novels. At that time, I was less concerned about reading out of order (out of necessity and an inability to locate earlier books, mostly) and I probably would have enjoyed it more if I'd "known" the character a little better.ReplyDelete
I've read those that I have read all out of order--I'm not sure it matters that much. It's probably simply a question of whether it's one's thing or not--I like them, but it's on the edge of the sort of thing I like--I generally prefer my murder mysteries a bit more unreal... ;-)Delete
I've been having trouble commenting on your blog again--I wish I understood what happens.
I read a few of McBain mysteries in the 80s and I remember nothing except they all had fairy tale titles. I'm not sure why mystery is my favorite genre when I rarely remember the plot (Agatha Christie is the rare exception).ReplyDelete
Wikipedia spoiled The Hunger Games trilogy for me, so I only ended up reading the first one. Learned my lesson!
I didn't really start reading him until about ten years ago so I remember the plots of most of the ones I've read.Delete
But it's great not being able to remember the plots. Then when you reread it it's like a whole new mystery... ;-)