The writing’s still a bit purple, but finally we see a glimpse of the McBain to come–the McBain that knows what a mystery is and knows how to show it to us rather than tell it to us. The set-up on this book is simple–in the first chapter, McBain tells us that two people are going die this day. From then on, character after character, and situation after situation, is introduced, and everytime you think, “ah-ha! here’s the one that’s going to die,” McBain pulls the rug out and disaster is averted. Or, when someone gets shot and you think, “no, this isn’t the person to die, can’t be,” well, you’re wrong. There really isn’t a mystery per se here, but there is a quite a bit of tension and surprise. Also, McBain kills off a repeating character in such an unexpected manner, showing you the difference between his series and those of other mystery writers. For other writers, the characters are king. Pick up any Nero Wolfe novel, and you know that Nero, Archie, Fritz, Saul and Inspector Cramer will be there. Not so with McBain. His character is the 87th Precinct, and no matter who the cops and villains are, it is the city and the precinct that will be there.

[Finished 15 July 1993]


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