Monday, May 15, 2017

Shotgun (1969)

Here's a theme title from the 87th Precinct series that finds a counterparts in a novel from a few years earlier, Ax. They're intended to shock with the brutality of the murdering class. Shotgun has an agenda that is clear from the start. "Detective Bert Kling went outside to throw up," goes the first line. He's at the scene where a couple has been slaughtered by two shotgun blasts apiece to the head. The queasy Kling is on the case with our usual hero, Steve Carella. Meyer Meyer and Cotton Hawes catch a separate case elsewhere, involving a middle-aged woman who has been killed with a knife to the heart. At this point, Ed McBain's id would like a word with us: "When somebody starts stabbing another person, there's a certain je ne sais quoi that takes over, a rhythm that's established, a compulsive need to plunge the blade again and again, so it shouldn't be a total loss. It is not uncommon in stabbings to find a corpse with anywhere from a dozen to a hundred wounds, that's the thing about stabbings." And that's the thing about McBain and knives in a very concentrated form. He also has similar passages (not here, but elsewhere) about the slicing effects of knives too. Maybe it's the right idea to save it all up for shock titles that are 100% shock. The only thing that surprises me is that the shotgun in this book is not sawed off—after all, circa 1969, you'd think it would be. The book is very short, well under 200 pages in mass market size, and as it happens the two cases come to interconnect. It's pro forma, as these mystery concoctions go. Again, this is about the violence and the weapons. There's very little about the personal lives of the detectives. The whole thing is just not very inspired. It exists primarily to shock, and sadly, by today's debauched standards, it can't even really do that. It's not such a blast after all.

In case it's not at the library.

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