Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kiss (1992)

Shocking, in a way. It's been more than 20 years since I have read from the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter, which was not his real name either), which means that even a book published in 1992 I have to take more or less as new, all further developments as yet unknown beyond a certain point in the late '80s. By this time McBain was writing them pretty fat—"fat" as in big, not indulgent. Not that this couldn't have stood some judicious cuts. But it's reasonably lean and swift, focusing largely on a plot about a wealthy investment banker who hires a hit man to murder his wife. This is interwoven with a soap opera storyline about one of the detectives, Steve Carella, observing the trial of the man who killed his father. So one thing I see is that Carella's various woes continued apace at least to this point. Kiss is not a best effort in many ways. Even the title turns out to be a hunk of nothing that simply molders there. The twist ending is too cute by half, stepping all over some otherwise intriguing plot points, offering up a kind of Double Indemnity narrative line that I think would have been better developed in the light. The court case and Carella thread may or may not be slightly belabored (I think yes), but it's interesting to read now among other reasons because of its close proximity preceding the OJ Simpson case. A snapshot of a certain historical moment in criminal justice, if you will. I also wonder how well McBain might have been familiar with Law & Order at that time, still in its early years but already achieving excellence with its second season. Maybe I'll find out more about that as I read more of the later ones. McBain often rambles on in discursive fashion, as usual, and the sidebars are often as interesting as the investigations because they are all so skillfully integrated. Also interesting to come back and find points that are so vivid now—such as the general unpleasantness of Andy Parker (nonetheless a pretty good cop, though lazy)—but which don't ring much of a bell from the earlier encounters.

In case it's not at the library.

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