The thing about the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter, which was not his real name either) is that they are insanely compulsively readable, as is perhaps true of any sustained genre series, until they are not—suddenly it may become all too familiar and stale. The only thing for it then is to take a break and come back later. Setting that aside (and I have been reading a bunch of them lately) I suspect with the titles that come late in the series that it's more the author than the reader losing energy. This is approximately the 54th in the series, and also second to last. So there's a lot of going through the motions going on here: another epic Deaf Man caper, which already makes it a Riddler-style comic book story, the kind of thing that has lost its charm for me. The detectives seem to be going through semi-comatose paces: Steve Carella's mother and sister are remarrying, Cotton Hawes is involved with a television news anchor, Eileen Burke and Hal Willis start sleeping together. There's not much new or fresh here. Even the procedural details feel rote. But McBain is good enough to go with what works no matter how silly or incidental. Here it is the detective Richard Genero's contributions to brainstorming what the cryptic notes from the Deaf Man might signify—anagrams, Shakespeare quotes, palindromes, etc. Genero, of course, is largely a bit player in the series, a detective who is none too bright or brave. The stupidity he displays here as they try to dope it all out often strains credulity, but it's usually funny, and about halfway in you realize that's probably about the best you're going to get here. May as well enjoy it for the rich laughs. I think I'm also saying this is for diehards only, and save it for later, use the excuse that you're trying to read them in order. Conversely, if you've had a good long break from McBain, you might want to try it first. Maybe it's better than I think. You can always scurry back to one of the older reliable titles. I never thought I wanted more Fat Ollie Weeks, but he's an interesting character and too much relegated to the sideline here. The relationship between Bert Kling and Sharyn Cooke is an interesting thread, but even that feels a bit recycled. For example, once again Kling is tailing his lover. That and many other things here have been done.