Friday, November 20, 2015

Lullaby (1989)

At this point, perhaps, is where I can begin to remember how I come to tire of the many, many books in the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain. Not that there's anything glaringly the matter with Lullaby, which might be exactly the problem. It's good enough—mostly one case, but with others percolating along as well, plus a good bit on Eileen Burke's personal life. If this were the first in the series that I'd read recently, rather than about the 31st, I might like it better. (It is #41 in the series.) Among his many strengths, McBain is good at constructing mystery plots. This one involves the murder and rape of a babysitter (with a knife still stuck in the body when it was discovered, of course) and the smothering death of the infant she was sitting. The detectives look here, the detectives look there. As usual, Steve Carella has the starring role, assisted this time by Meyer Meyer. Bert Kling also appears working on a case that involves drug gang dealings, featuring Jamaican, Chinese, and Colombian warlords. And I like (cautiously) the drift of the Eileen Burke thread, as she is attempting to recover from a rape on the job, detailed in the previous novel in the series, Tricks. I will probably continue saying until I decide to stop reading him again that I've had more than enough of the knives and the raping. The thudding repetitiousness of these elements is starting to make me feel a little like a dupe. I had to give up John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels for much the same reason. The depictions of the treatment of women and the violence and cruelty just get to be too pervasive. Sure, Travis McGee and most of the 87th Precinct detectives are upstanding men who would never do such things, but it's always happening around them, which finally leads you to conclude rather unpleasantly that the element in common to all this mayhem is the author of the books. But I'm not quite there yet, and McBain's strengths still outweigh enough the flaws. I love his chatty, free-flowing language, unspooling all the events but often charming with digressions and unexpected observations. The characters are comfortable like favorite old clothes, more than 30 years into the series. I noticed with some bemusement that he happened to mention Roger Havilland in passing here, a character who was killed off when the series was still new and it was the '50s. That's some depth of continuity, man.

In case it's not at the library.

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