Sunday, May 18, 2014

Blood Relatives (1975)

Blood Relatives is still of the lean, compact variety of novel in the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter, which was not his real name either), less than 200 pages as a mass market paperback, and thus, among other things, a very swift read indeed. Digressions and subplots are minimal, although I don't necessarily count that as a good thing in this series. Blood Relatives is focused on one main case, making it more of a conventional "mystery book," including a twist ending that makes the whole thing unfortunately not very believable and something of a dud. The case is about a pair of teen cousins who are brutally attacked on the street by a maniac with a knife. One survives with injuries and has a confused story to tell. It's a very unpleasant crime, detailed to a discomfiting degree. McBain is fascinated by knives, there's no disputing that, and this is one of the novels where it's right out there. The story eventually goes off the rails (in my opinion) but the fundamentals of the procedural are solid as usual. Steve Carella is front and center, with Meyer Meyer and Bert Kling just to the side, and as often happens in these shorties they are mostly just working the case. And that's fine too, if your tastes run to procedurals as do mine, because McBain is just plain one of the best. Not to be tiresome about it, but when the focus of procedurals shifted to labs and high-tech doohick from, you know, good old-fashioned shoe-leather police work, grinding away at putting together a picture, constructing a narrative if you will (which always incorporated lab work), well, that's when it lost me, as amazing as all that technology is. Again, see true-crime shows such as the Court TV / truTV gem, Forensic Files, for better entertainment values built out of the same materials. "Big case" single-episode TV dramas also more and more preclude the parallel streams of cases developing at the same time, which is one of my favorite aspects of them (again, Adam-12). But Blood Relatives is disappointing to me not just because it is limited to the one case, but also because that case has a number of significant problems, including perhaps worst a pompous sense of profundity. It's the usual gang from the 87th, but proceed with caution.

In case it's not at the library.

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