RogerBW's Blog

Killer's Choice, Ed McBain 30 October 2023

1957 police procedural, fifth in the 87th Precinct series. The beautiful redhead is gunned down in a liquor store. But everyone who knew her seems to have had a motive.

There are surprisingly subtle elements that don't go anywhere. Everyone who knew Annie paints a different picture of her: to one man she was prim, to another a sexy drunkard, to another very clever, to another vapid. Why did she do that? Well, it's never really explored (one might assume, because she liked men to like her). One suspect in particular changes his story without, as it turns out, any obvious reason either to lie in the first place or to recant later. It's messy, but it also helps the world to feel alive rather than like a neat series of events constructed solely for the story.

Because apart from that it's business as usual, short simple writing that tells you what's happening and none of that egghead stuff. There's a new detective on the squad, transferred from a "nicer" precinct. One of the others is killed, and the B plot involves catching his killer.

Taken on its own terms, and I think one has to, this book mostly works. The only slight sour note for me was the dead woman's daughter, who's supposedly five but gets smarter and stupider as required. Ah well, I couldn't write a convincing child myself without a bit of research.

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Previous in series: The Con Man | Series: 87th Precinct | Next in series: Killer's Payoff

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