Sunday, December 04, 2016

Like Love (1962)

Here's another very short novel in the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain), and another one that mostly resembles a conventional mystery story. A couple is found dead of apparent suicide in a tenement apartment. The gas for the oven was opened up and eventually the apartment exploded, smashing much of it to smithereens. It's typical exaggerated McBain violence. The dead couple is found in their underwear, lying in bed together, with a suicide note nearby. At this point, ineffable cop instinct sets in—it's Steve Carella as the main detective, as usual, with Cotton Hawes partnering with him on the case. Bert Kling and Meyer Meyer are also around to help out. As these things go it's a reasonably good puzzler. McBain was usually competent about devising these stories, inserting the red herrings, and finally explaining it all. That talent, in fact, is a critical element in the keeping the series going with the variety that it has. The mysteries can often carry the momentum, while he sorts out what he wants to do with the characters for the long term. There's also a separate suicide case, which occurs at the beginning and later impinges on the investigation of the dead couple. The title phrase is spoken two or three times along the way to inject notes of jaded cynicism, corrupted innocence, or a little of both. There's not much here on the personal side. Bert Kling is grieving the death of a girlfriend in an earlier book and that's about it. I wasn't much interested in the case—the whole thing seemed improbable to me, no matter what the "solution" turned out to be. So mostly I rode along on McBain's bantering voice. I wouldn't count this as one of the better books in the series, but as something for travel or a sleepless night it's perfectly adequate. It delivers an enigma and then, if you follow along far enough, a plausible resolution. Maybe you can get some sleep now. Maybe your plane is ready to land now.

In case it's not at the library.

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