Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man (1972)

Yes, it's true, it's another Deaf Man episode in the 87th Precinct series of police procedurals by Ed McBain. It might even be the most restrained one of all. But it's still a Deaf Man episode, so what you get is an elaborate bank robbery caper accompanied by a Batman and Riddler comic book story. Like all comic book villains (and only a few real-life ones, but I digress), the Deaf Man feels the need to inform police of his plans in cryptic ways, using their blunders to help pull off his capers. Or almost pull them off, as he never quite gets away with them, much like Mr. Mxyzptlk, from over at the Superman comic books, who is forever tricked into saying his ridiculous name backward again. Speaking of ridiculous names, this time the Deaf Man is traveling under the alias Taubman, which is kinda sorta German for "deaf man." O the wily Deaf Man! One of McBain's continuing strengths is constructing plots, so at least the bank robbery is a shrewd and interesting plan, though we are never privy to the whole thing until it goes down. This makes the climax more interesting, but also lends the foreshadowing an annoying air of peekaboo. But a mystery writer's gotta do what a mystery writer's gotta do. On the personal side, this is where Bert Kling meets his beautiful model girlfriend (then wife, then ex-wife) Augusta Blair. She comes along in the B story, which is actually the more interesting case, a series of burglaries in the precinct. The burglar is leaving behind kittens, because, get it? get it? he's a cat burglar. I said it was the most interesting storyline, not joke. Although, now that I think about it, it's just dumb enough to be true. And it has a better resolution than the Deaf Man story. But right, see title, this is a Deaf Man episode. The lame clues take up most of the time, but it's better than conducting full-scale war on the city as he has in earlier episodes, so count your blessings. The Deaf Man never pulls off his crimes (though he must be getting money from somewhere to finance them) yet he is never apprehended. It's another example of egregious police failure. This is basically skippable, unless you like the Deaf Man episodes, in which case go for it.

In case it's not at the library.

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