Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Con Man: Ed McBain


This was the fourth book that I have read by Ed McBain; they have all been in the 87th Precinct series. I plan to read all of them in order. That may be ambitious because I have quite a few left and all of them are not as short and sweet as these first four.

This novel concentrates on one kind of criminal: the con man. There are two cases, and the book explores the different levels that a con can be played at. In one case, the end result is murder, and the game is much more serious.

A unique element of the 87th Precinct series is that they include documents from the investigations, which contributes to the feeling that you are getting the real picture of an investigation. The policemen are very believable characters, with flaws and varying personalities.

I also like the ethnic mix of characters, which makes sense in the setting of these books, where Isola stands in for New York. Steve Carella, in the spotlight in this book, is Italian. Arthur Brown is black. There is a Chinese tattoo artist who also figures prominently.

This book kept me entertained and engaged throughout. In my reviews of previous books in this series, I had noted some lovely descriptive passages. That type of writing seemed to be absent in this book. Not a detriment, necessarily; this one focused more on the policemen's experiences. Steve Carella was seriously wounded in the previous book and is still suffering pain and working through it. Bert Kling, the newest detective on the squad, is trying to find some way to take a trip with his fiance.

The only negative aspect for me was that I did not care for Steve Carella's wife being so involved in this story, to the point of getting herself in danger. The storyline was plausible and it did fit her character, so I don't know why it bothered me.

See other reviews at Tipping My Fedora, The Violent World of Parker (also reviews Killer's Choice), and Joe Barone's Blog.

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Publisher:   Thomas & Mercer, 2011 (orig. pub. 1957)
Length:       204 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       87th Precinct, #4
Setting:      Isola, fictional city loosely based on New York City
Genre:        Police procedural
Source:      I purchased my copy.


23 comments:

  1. Great review Tracy. I'll embark on the 87th Precinct books at some point, I just don't know when.

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    1. I know what you mean, Col. So many series I would like to read.

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  2. Glad you enjoyed this one - I think of the first four it comes after COP HATER and THE MUGGER, but has most of the McBain virtues. Teddy doesn't really get into trouble again like this but Mr Chan makes a welcome re-appearance about 30 years later in ICE.

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    1. I am definitely speeding up my reading of this series, Sergio. It had been much too long since I read my last 87th Precinct novel.

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  3. I'm very glad you found so much to like about this one, Tracy. It may not be perfect, but it's a good example of what McBain has to offer!

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    1. I like that each book seems to be a little different, Margot. There are some common elements (so far) but each has had a different focus or approach.

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  4. I have a fondness for police procedurals, and I think I'll give McBain a try. Good luck reading the whole series! I'll dabble, probably :)

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    1. Dabbling is probably a better approach than what I am doing, Rebecca. Some of the really well known books are later in the series. A plus for the earlier books is the shorter length.

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  5. I went through a phase where I read a couple dozen McBain books at one time. Of course, in a series this long there will be variations in quality.

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    1. I do expect the variations in quality, George, but I probably will enjoy the police procedural parts anyway. I am not looking forward to the longer books.

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  6. Thanks to Patti I'll bet more than a couple of us (me included) are either trying McBain for the first time or coming back to him after a long hiatus (me). Reading these reviews gives me a better insight to the novels than the usual boilerplate comments Amazon calls "customer reviews." Con Man sounds like a good read. Thanks for the introduction.

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    1. Thank you, Matthew. I was very glad Patti gave us the push to read more McBain because I had gotten sidetracked. I know I would enjoy them even more if I read them closer together.

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    2. And I spelled your name wrong, Mathew, I am sorry.

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    3. Not to worry, Tracy. Most people put the extra "t" in there. In fact, so do I when I shorten it to "Matt."

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  7. I'm coming to the pinion that, since each of the *&th books seems to have multiple plots, that McBain is just combining what could have been short stories into a novel length book. I've yet to find one that really reads like a police procedural in the way of Peter Robinson, Kent Krueger, Peter Lovesey or most other authors. They are light, and lightweight, and maybe that's why so many readers like them.

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    1. Now that you mention it, good description of the two I've read most recently. A tad or two heavier than Barney Miller (i.e. real bullets) but with familiar squad dynamics.

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    2. I do agree that they are more lightweight, Richard, and because of that it surprises me that I like them so much. You may be right, that aspect may be part of what I like about them, even though usually I lean toward something in between.

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  8. Great review, Tracy. Between McBain and Robert B. Parker, they can keep you busy. I love McBain and I love Steve Carella. I regret sometimes not reading them in order but there are so many that I just pick and choose and so far, I haven't had any issues. But I realize that there are advantages to reading things in order so I know I'm missing out.

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    1. I go back and forth on whether to read this in order, Keishon, but sticking with my plan for now. Robert B. Parker is an author I need to read more books by. In the case of the Spenser books, I may read in order but skip some books. I also want to read the Jesse Stone novels.

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  9. Tracy: I bought the box set of Jesse Stone novels when they were on sale. Thanks for the reminder ;-) I do want to read them, too, hopefully, next year. When in the mood for humor I go for Spencer every time.

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    1. I am going to have to make an active search for the Jesse Stone novels, Keishon. I keep waiting for them to show up at sales or used book stores, but haven't had any luck.

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  10. I'm always thinking I might read more McBain, but never get round to him. I think I'm worried about embarking on another series - and such a long one.

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    1. Many people just read them in any order and are happy to do that, Moira. I guess I will stay with reading them in order for the early novels, then maybe look for ones that have been well reviewed after that. I will never read all the books I want to anyway.

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