Friday, May 19, 2017

The Big Bad City (1999)

One argument against reading the novels in the 87th Precinct series out of order might be that the later ones seem weaker read in isolation, the inconsistencies more nagging. I mean, here it is nearly the 21st century and Steve Carella, who was married in a 1959 novel, is worrying over his imminent 40th birthday. How does that work? It's possible after all this time that I'm just getting a little tired of McBain. But the characters in this one struck me as notably vacant. Nobody home, except the pro forma: Steve Carella loves his deaf wife Teddy, Hal Willis is short, and Meyer Meyer's father had a strange sense of humor. Cotton Hawes was so absent I thought he might have been knocked off in one of the books I haven't read yet. Matthew Hope, private detective star of a concurrent McBain series, shows up at one point. First time I've seen that. Apparently he and Carella came to be friends. The mystery story is a little better. It's 20 years after Calypso and McBain still hasn't figured out anything convincing about the worlds of rock music, let alone hip-hop. Here it's a nun who takes a year off from her vows to sing for a rock band, during which time she gets a boob job. Interesting array of facts for a nun. Then she goes back to her order. Then, a few years later, she is murdered in a park in the 87th Precinct of McBain's stand-in for New York City, Isola (Italian for "island"). The Big Bad City might have the conclusion to the '90s thread about the murder of Carella's father, which I haven't found interesting yet. The enduring Fat Ollie Weeks has a prominent role here and as always is repulsive but entertaining but repulsive. Andy Parker's here too. There's some pointless time spent attempting to distinguish the bigotries of Fat Ollie and Parker. Since reading this one and going on to others, I've noticed how often McBain injects the term "the big bad city" into his narratives. It's one of his favorite phrases. Conveniently enough, simply reading that phrase has the virtue of covering most of the main points here.

In case it's not at the library.

1 comment:

  1. I know McBain's way grimier but that cover, Big Bad City, reminds me of that Seinfeld episode w/ library detective Bookman. 'I've got a flash for you, joy boy. Partytime is over! Welcome to The Big Bad City!'

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