RogerBW's Blog

Killer's Payoff, Ed McBain 11 May 2024

1958 police procedural, sixth in the 87th Precinct series. A blackmailer is shot in a drive-by; the 87th has to find out which of his victims did it.

Which should be exciting, but it didn't quite grab me. I feel McBain is writing more to his publisher's demands than to produce a good book; they demanded a single detective and more sex, and here we have the return of Cotton Hawes, happily sleeping with nearly every vaguely attractive woman in the book and lusting after the rest. (Does he have any other personality beyond "a bit careful after he nearly got Carella killed last book"? Not that you'd know from this.)

Beyond that, it's all very routine stuff. Perhaps in 1958 it could have been considered shocking that a politician's wife might have modelled nearly nude once, but here it's just a subject for leering. There are four sources of money in the victim's bank account, and three of them get tracked down and eliminated as the killer; then Hawes makes a leap of faith and turns out to be right (but not quite right enough to avoid a final tense scene).

This was the last book of McBain's (Evan Hunter's) second three-book contract. It's not terrible, but it's very dated and has the feel of trying to sound authentic while not actually writing about something the author knows. I'm still waiting for the series to "get good", as I am assured it does.

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Previous in series: Killer's Choice | Series: 87th Precinct

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