© 1956 Ed McBain
The heat is on for Detective Stephen Carella of the 87th precinct and his fellow officers. As a heat wave reduces the city to misery, someone is murdering the precinct’s detectives one by one. The killer’s victims are spread across the department too much to have been connected to a single case, and one lead after another fizzles to a dead end. Though the unforgiving heat and increasing body count sap their spirits, Carella and the other detectives are determined to find their killer and take him down. When resolution comes, however, it’s from an unexpected corner.
Cop Hater is the first in the 87th Precinct series, Ed McBain (Evan Hunter)’s most famous body of work. The series is so expansive that I have no intention of attempting to read them in order: this merely caught my attention while at the library. McBain/Hunter has a strange style, one that mixes simple grittiness with sometimes flowery prose. He speaks of tenement buildings reaching into the skies like misty fingers while his main characters talk about who’s just been ‘knocked off’. The combination works, though, and the novel’s use of multiple viewpoints adds to the suspense: in the introduction, McBain mentions that he wanted to use an entire squadroom of detectives for this series, just so he had the option of imperiling or killing characters when useful, and the potency of that decision is made clear here. One detective is killed within moments of our meeting him, while others survive long enough to ensnare the reader’s sympathies before they become victims themselves. I roared through this book in a single sitting, though the ending left me wanting — seeming more the work of coincidence than detective work. Still, there’s no denying McBain can write a thriller, and so I’ve no doubts I’ll be reading more.