Thursday, January 8, 2015

Killer's Choice by Ed McBain: A review

Killer's Choice (87th Precinct, #5)Killer's Choice by Ed McBain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

And so I continue with my reading in order of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series. I've barely started. This is the fifth of the books in the series which stretches all the way from the 1950s to 2005 and numbers more than fifty. At this point, I'm still in the 1950s and these early books now qualify as historical mysteries.

I continue to be struck by McBain's crisp, to-the-point, just-the-facts prose and just how much information and atmosphere he's able to convey with only a few choice, spare words. The man could write!

In this book, he introduces a new character, a new detective for the 87th, one interestingly named Cotton Hawes. He transferred in from another precinct which didn't see much crime and virtually no murders. He has no experience investigating murders and it shows on the first case that he's sent out on, but he's smart and diligent and a quick learner. He's teamed up with Steve Carella, a good man from whom to learn the skills needed for investigating murders.

This time out the 87th has two murders to investigate. The first one is a woman who managed a liquor store. Her name is Annie Boone and she was shot dead in the store that she managed, and much of the store's stock was knocked off the shelves and landed, broken, on the floor, like Annie's body.

Annie was the divorced mother of a five-year-old daughter. She and her daughter lived with her mother and she was on friendly terms with her ex-husband. The preliminary investigation of a family link to her murder turns up nothing. The detectives must cast their net farther afield.

When they do, they discover a woman of many contradictions. Her friends and associates had very different perspectives and opinions about the dead woman's character. She seems to have been many different women, but which one of them provoked a murderer?

Meantime, the second murder occurs and this one strikes closer to home. Detective Roger Havilland was out patrolling the streets when he came across a man sitting on the sidewalk and went over to see if he was all right. The man jumped up and pushed Havilland through a plate glass window. A shard of glass punctured his jugular vein and his windpipe. He was dead almost by the time he hit the ground.

Havilland had been notorious for his free fists when it came to dealing with suspects and prisoners. He was brutal, but, in many ways, had been a good cop. A man of contradictions. His fellow officers determine to find his killer and make sure he is punished. It is in the search for his killer that the inexperienced Hawes makes his almost fatal mistake in his debut as a murder investigator - a mistake that is nearly fatal not just for him but for Carella as well.  

The Annie Booth case offers a large cast of possible suspects which the detectives must sort through until they isolate the real murderer. In the Havilland case, they have a good idea who the killer is after their initial inquiries are made, but now they must find him.

McBain takes us through the step-by-step procedures as the dogged investigators pursue the solutions to these crimes. It's a mesmerizing process and a quick read, made quicker by the fact that it's very hard to put the book down. Yes, the man could write!



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