The 44th entry in the Ed McBain series of police procedurals offers two main storylines. In the first, Carella and Meyer investigate two cases of attempted murder against one person and two related deaths; in the second we carry on the story from the previous book in the series, Widows, following the trial of the men who murdered Carella’s father. Along the way we get digressions on racial disquiet, the Chicago mob, and the lacunae at the heart of the American justice system. But the author is still trying out new twists and turns too …
I submit this review for Patti’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme hosted today by Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom.
Kiss (87th Precinct series #44)
First Published: 1992
Leading players: Steve Carella, Meyer Meyer, Fat Ollie Weeks, Andy Parker, Cotton Hawes, Bert Kling, Nellie Brand, Monaghan & Monroe
“Detective/Third Grade Randall Wade looked as mean as tight underwear.”
The new year begins pretty badly for Emma Bowles when she is thrown in the path of a subway train and then a few days later almost hit by a speeding car. So, naturally, she goes to the 87th to report that somebody is trying to kill her – and she knows who the perpetrator is too! This could be the easiest case even for Carella and Meyer … except that when they track down the potential suspect, he is discovered shot and hanged in a basement. At the same time, Carella and his family sit though the ordeal of the trial of the man who killed his father, the endless sneaky legal tactics wearing down even the most indulgent supporter of the trial process. Both cases will end in unexpected ways and McBain tries out a nice new twist in the murder investigation, with mixed results …
“Mrs Bowles,” he said. “Do you have any reason to believe your husband might want you dead?”
Even with two main plots, this is a volume that certainly belongs to the latter part of the 87th Precinct series. Every page is done professionally and the dialogue especially always reads extremely well but … there is also a lot of extra material here used primarily to reach the desired 300-page length. Some of it does provides some depth for the characters (such as a flashback to when Emma and her husband first met); and there is some really nice material devoted to the Carella family traditions too, especially in a sequence devoted tot he rituals around New Year’s Eve, though McBain, aka Salvatore Lombino, seems to have forgotten his Italian in some cases (we get ‘i creaturi’ instead of ‘le creature’ and ‘sfogliatelli’ instead of ‘sfogliatelle’). And then of course there are scenes included just to provide some humour, such as when Carella has another of his perennial bad encounter with an officious telephone operators (boy, McBain must have really hated those people.
There are fun references to earlier books, in this case the 1972 classic, Sadie When She Died, and a few elements, such as the references to racial tension and graffiti artists, that will pay off only in the next in the series, Mischief (review coming next month to Fedora). However, one has to admit, quite often we go through pages ,and pages, and pages, and get nowhere not fast enough.So, had this been published 20 years earlier, it would have run to 170 pages and worked very well indeed – here it all feels a bit bloated … so very much half marks for this one.
You can check out my reviews of all the previous volumes at my 87 Precinct microsite.