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Cop Hater, Ed McBain
on 4 November 2004
This, this first novel of McBain's 87th Precinct, is the one that set him on the path to greatness. Before I read it, I'd heard vaguely of him, but wasn't exactly rushing to start a series with over 50 entries. Now THAT, is impressive. In the 40 years plus since this series began, McBain has written a huge number of them, enough to make it [probably] the longest police procedural series ever. It also has the unique twist that there is no central character, but a squad-room full of them who are built upon book-by-book.
I read this book rather timorously, I was expecting it to be okay, no fireworks. To some extent, that's true - there are no fireworks, exactly, but it was so incredibly entertaining to read that I've now purchased every single entry that's currently available in Britain, and have started to gobble them up. So far, I highly recommend every single one.
McBain uses everything: forensics, psychology, melodrama, character, etc etc, to move his stories along. They're snappy, fizz with energy and wit, small bites of sarcasm, and are superbly enjoyable. That's as good a thing as can be said about a novel, really. This first entry is a rather simple story concerning a killer who seems out to get the boys of the 87th Precinct, but it clips along at a great pace, introduces us to some brilliant characters who just get better as the series progresses, and makes a brilliant tapestry of police investigation. I loved it. (Obviously, that's why I bought the rest.)
If you've never tried McBain before, this is an ideal place to start now that Orion seems to be reissuing them all, after having been out of print for so long. It's not a series which demands to be read in order, either (at least, I haven't, and I don't feel I'm loosing anything much) - which is a bonus, because attempting to read a 50+ entry series in order would b a rather daunting task.
McBain is certainly the master of this kind of American crime novel. I've never enjoyed a set of police procedural books more (well, apart from those of Henning Mankell). Pick one up today, because you won't regret it.