Sunday, June 15, 2014

So Long as You Both Shall Live (1976)

This is one of the short, sharply focused novels in the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter, which was not his real name either). It advances a couple of the continuing threads in the series—the detective Bert Kling's bad luck with beautiful women, which from certain angles represents an almost comic pratfall element (though grim), and the persistent noxiousness of Fat Ollie Weeks—although it depends on accepting that what happens here happens to happen randomly to our familiar cast of characters. A psychotic stalker, who is "insane," kidnaps Bert Kling's wife (who is a model) on the day of their marriage. But it's not for ransom. He just wants to keep her and do as he will with her as long as he can. So there is no ransom demand, the cops have no idea where to look, etc. Enter police procedure. You can probably see where it's not easy to pick out the comical element in the Bert Kling thread, because the things that happen to his various women are horrific. More interesting to me, on my recent pass through a bunch of McBains, is Fat Ollie Weeks, who I don't recall encountering much before. I like that he's such a good cop—dogged, creative, with great instincts. I'm less interested in the way he is also a reprehensible human being, and the somewhat trite conflict therein. Mostly I just love watching him figure stuff out. In many ways he's the hero here, showing up and injecting himself into a case the 87th Precinct detectives are obviously taking way too personally to think clearly. That almost has to be Fat Ollie's role to make the big story work, but at least McBain avoids making it a heartwarming moment. Better that Weeks remains basically an asshole. I would really hate to see him reforming much, though I believe he starts softening on some of his racism toward the end of the series, when the books are not as good. But it's not entirely believable at that point. Anyway, this one's a dandy McBain shorty.

In case it's not at the library.

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