RogerBW's Blog

The Pusher, Ed McBain 10 February 2023

1956 police procedural, third in the 87th Precinct series. A young man is found hanging from his barred window, but he clearly died of an overdose first. What's going on?

I suspect one could work out just who advised McBain about Drugs. On the one hand we have a quite realistic portrayal of an addict who's a good kid but is prepared to say or do just about anything, even to his own parents, to get another dose. On the other, we have the boring old rubbish about how trying cannabis will lead you to try heroin within a month and you'll be instantly hooked. Hey ho. (Of course it's easier than wondering why people might feel that life is so terrible that anything which makes it stop hurting for a bit is worth trying.)

The investigation is relatively straightforward: here are some contacts, we follow them, here's a murder to tie off a loose end, a clue falls out of that, and so on. It's a short book, only 50,000 words, and there isn't much room for sidetracks and red herrings, but McBain manages to squeeze in some very atmospheric prose, especially where winter weather is concerned. Carella, meant to be a pretty good detective, is led astray by an assumption; is that realistic for him? Hard to say, but it's at least surprising.

Still nothing amazing, still very much in the style of the disposable literature of the 1950s. If I'd started here I might try another, but I'm not wowed.

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Previous in series: The Mugger | Series: 87th Precinct | Next in series: The Con Man

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