Sunday, July 20, 2014

Long Time No See (1977)

Another basically solid entry in the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter, which was not his real name either). By this point most of the leading man duties have devolved onto Steve Carella, who is again the primary lead on the single case this is focused on, the murders of three blind persons and an assault on a fourth. It's more of a mystery book riddle (in the "cozy" vein) than procedural, but it goes to some interesting and unexpected places, such as dream interpretation, with an avuncular appearance by a psychiatrist who discusses Freudian theory. All right, but inevitably the dream and interpretation are perverted to the ends of answering a mystery book riddle. Still, I will look the other way because the mystery book riddle is actually done quite well, expertly scattering out its ration of red herrings and dead ends. I had to keep guessing right along, even though I figured out early the basic shape of it—what this serial killer was more or less about. It's a good strategy and produces a book that is fun to read. The focus on the case is pretty tight, with few detours into the various characters and their personalities and lives. I think I like it when there's a little more of that—and I also like a mix of ongoing cases big and small—but there can definitely be too much. So it's nice to see the foray into mystery writing and keeping the tight focus. By this point in the series McBain slips into bantering digressions easily and frequently, so there's that too. I like the pun in the title, I like a case involving a mysterious serial killer (who obviously has a rational motivation) going after blind people, and I like both Steve Carella and Meyer Meyer, so this goes down well. I'm afraid the knife fetish features again prominently—it's basically the manner of the murders. In fact, at one point there is a discussion of the difference between stabbing and incision. Good to get that straightened out for those wondering. So this is not without faults we already know, but overall a worthy effort for the series.

In case it's not at the library.

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