Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Killer's Choice: Ed McBain

As the story opens, a liquor store has been robbed. The saleswoman, Annie Boone, is dead of four bullet wounds, and a lot of damage was done to the store, including most of the merchandise. The store owner is moaning about the damage and the loss of most of his stock, and seems to care little about his employee's death. As the detectives of the 87th Precinct investigate this crime, they meet many people who know Annie but each has a different picture of her. The homicide victim is just as much a mystery as who killed her.


One difference between the 87th Precinct books and other police procedural mysteries I have read is that we see and follow several of the detectives working cases, often in pairs. In many other series, the focus is on one policeman or two partners. True, in this series Steve Carella is a central character, but at least at this point in the series, everyone plays their part and we follow extraneous events in each of their lives.

In this book, the 87th Precinct loses one policeman to a freakish incident, he just sort of wanders onto the site of a robbery at the wrong time. Also a new detective, Cotton Hawes, is added to the precinct; he has a bit of trouble fitting in because he comes from a precinct set in a nicer section of the city, which had fewer homicides to deal with. Also featured in Killer's Choice are Meyer Meyer and Bert Kling.

The lovely descriptive passages that seemed to be missing in book 4, The Con Man, are back again in this book. Ed McBain also tells the story well through dialog. The policemen are believable characters, with flaws and individual personalities.

I am reading this series in order from the beginning, and this is the fifth book that I have read. The series started in 1956, and this book came out in 1957. The early books in the series are short, quick reads. (McBain says he wrote those in a month.) There were over 50 books in the series and some of the later books are quite long. I started late with this series but it is nice to know I have many more to read. It will be interesting to see how the series and the policemen change as the series evolves.

See these reviews by:



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Publisher:   Permabooks, 1962 (orig. pub. 1957)
Length:       147 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       87th Precinct, #5
Setting:      Isola, fictional city loosely based on New York City
Genre:        Police procedural
Source:      I purchased my copy.



18 comments:

  1. Tracy, I love the fact that you are not 'scared' to read a long-running series that has been out for quite a while. I think many people are. I also love the fact that you highlight and read those books that are older. So much of what is being published these days as standalone crime reads all seem to have the same themes and beginning to get a little grumpy about it. I think I need to try to follow your lead more. :-)

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    1. Kay, thanks for that. But sometimes I am scared of reading crime fiction that is too tense, too creepy, and I am sure I miss a lot that way. And I agree, just from the summaries of new books I see, it seems that there are a lot of books about the same thing.

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  2. I love it that you're reading this series in order, Tracy. It's a classic police procedural series with many more good entries than disappointments.

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    1. I considered skipping around in this series, Margot, but too much happens to the characters along the way in this one, and I don't want to know in advance. So I will keep plodding through it.

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  3. So glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did, Tracy!

    And many thanks for the link to my Goodreads notes.

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    1. I was glad I liked the book, John. I had not been so happy with The Con Man for some reason and that put me off the series for a while. Now I am back in the mood for it.

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  4. While Barbara has read a couple dozen of these, I have only tried two. I wasn't as impressed as most readers, though I'm not sure why. Maybe I should try another one. Someday.

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    1. A lot of what I enjoy about these books is McBain's writing, Rick. I am amazed that he wrote so many in this series. But there are so many books to read, we can't read all of them.

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  5. I loved this series when it came out. Should dip back in.

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    1. Patti, twenty or twenty five years ago I had a co-worker who continued to encourage me to read Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books and I never listened to her. I regret that now. (We worked together 29 years.)

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    1. Thanks, Barry, I am looking forward to reading more of these books. I have quite a few of them, but unfortunately not the very next one. But soon, I will find a copy.

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  7. I ought to follow you're lead. Funny enough I picked up my copy of Goldilocks, first in McBain's Matthew Hope series and read a couple of chapters last week. I have a tendency to do that if I'm in-between books.

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    1. How did you like the two chapters of Goldilocks, Col? I do plan to read that book, the only one in the Matthew Hope series that I have.

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    2. So far so good. I'm not gripped as yet. It's still on the bedside cabinet with about 4 other books, I've been trying to get into.

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    3. I look forward to finding out more, Col.

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  8. I've been away from the precinct for a while, Tracy. Thanks for nudging me back!

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    1. It took me a while to get back to the series, Mathew, and I hope I can read them more regularly now. So I don't forget the characters.

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