6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2004
I first discovered Ed Mcbain more years ago than I care to admit.
He has written more than 50 books featuring the 87th Precinct and its squad of detectives. There have been some blips on the way, He who hesitates and Money,Money, but in general terms the books merit 5 stars. This is in contrast to some of his so called rivals, Patricia Cornwell, J Kellerman etc, who churn out a book a year from a more and more threadbare pallette. Bandersnatch crackles with energy from start to finish centring on the kidnap of a popsinger during the launch of her debut album. The 87th precinct detectives land the case with the help(?) of the FBI.The main protagonist is Steve Carella but there are cameo appearances from Andy Parker, Bert Kling Cotton Hawes, Lt Byrne and Fat Olly. Incidentally Olly is still looking for his book. This is a must read for fans.New readers get on the case asap.
on 4 September 2011
Ed McBain is the master of the ensemble crime book. He invents an exciting crime - a young and rising pop star snatched by gun-wielding kidnappers from a party on a boat held to celebrate the release of her new single - and then has the officers of the 87th Precinct crack it together. The usual characters appear - the brave and dashing Steve Carella, the "large" and bigoted Fat Olly (who like most bigots in literature is a lot more fun than his straight-laced colleagues, as well as proving educational with his astonishingly wide range of ethnic insults and jokes) and the romanticly-involved Bert Kling (who admittedly does nothing all novel, for the second book in a row).
McBain's genius is in his tight plotting (no page is wasted), his skill with characters (even minor players, like a gay dancer from the pop star's troupe, are vividly drawn) and his ability to combine the gentle and enjoyable lives of his heroes with tough, brutal crime (two budding romances and a rape). The end of the book feels a little abrupt, as if missing five pages to gently wind the book down, but this is a minor complaint. If you like fast, non-nonsense crime with a little heart then you'll like this.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2004
The 87th Precinct is one of the most enduring series that I have ever come across, certainly the series that defined the modern police procedural. The series started in 1956 and now consists of over 50 books and is still going as strongly as ever, at its strongest when involved with the spadework that is the foundation of most police investigations.
The regular characters who have become very familiar over the many years are back again, reliable and solid detectives such as Steve Carella, Bert Kling, Cotton Hawes, Meyer Meyer, Arthur Brown and Andy Parker. Over the years their personalities and relationships have slowly been established, but they don’t really feature prominently in any one book. The focus is always on the crimes and the methods employed to solve them, so much so that each book could almost be read as a stand-alone.
The strength of the 87th Precinct books lies in the investigation techniques used to carefully piece together the puzzle of the crime. Whether it's an interview transcript in which the dialogue is fast, furious and very realistic or a search of telephone transcripts, the fascination is in the way the pieces begin to fall into place for the detectives. And on the detectives, I also enjoy the clipped dialogue between them as they work the case. It adds a certain edgy quality to the story giving a no-nonsense feel. It smacks of realism.
Of course, what isn't real is the city that the 87th Precinct can be found. Isola is the fictional setting for all books in the series, often billed as the big, bad city. It's fairly common knowledge, though that Isola is in fact Manhattan and it can be quite fun to try to work out the equivalent landmarks in and around New York City and equate them to McBain's Isola.
Tara Valparaiso is about to make it big as a pop diva, at least, that’s what Barney Loomis, head of Bison Records hopes. He’s hosting the launch of her new CD titled Bandersnatch and the hard sell is being made to attending media and important guests.
Partway through the performance of the song that should launch Tara to super-stardom, the party is rudely interrupted by a couple of masked men carrying guns. They boldly stride in and kidnap the budding songstress from under the noses of over 100 onlookers.
The part of the river that the kidnapping took place happens to fall under the jurisdiction of the 87th Precinct and the detective who happens to catch the call is Steve Carella. Long time readers of this series would probably agree that Carella is the best and brightest of the 87th Precinct detectives, certainly he’s the central character in most of the books and he takes the lead again here.
The case is only in the 87th Precinct’s hands for a short time before the FBI become involved and takes over. Carella however is enlisted to help on the task force at the request of Barney Loomis. As can be imagined neither the FBI nor Carella are thrilled at the prospect of working together and it isn’t terribly long before Carella walks out on the team turning the investigation into a head to head race between the FBI and the 87th Precinct to catch the kidnappers and find the girl.
It’s only when Carella leaves the FBI task force and begins investigating using the tried and true methods that have made the series so popular and long-lived, that the pace picks up. That's not to say the first half of the book was terribly slow, but it does seem to spend a good deal of time in setting up the adversarial atmosphere between the kidnappers and the law enforcement agencies.
One tiny annoyance was the portrayal of the FBI in this book. Painting FBI agents as egotistical fools has been done many times before, particularly when the police are the heroes, and so it happens again in this case. While I thought that this was a rather clichéd scenario which led to an obvious outcome, McBain has overcome it somewhat by giving the book a rather shocking ending by throwing in a touch of the unexpected.
For fans of the 87th Precinct series and also for newcomers, I recommend THE FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH as a terrific example of a police procedural, written by the master of the sub-genre.
There is a curious side story involving a semi-regular character named Oliver “Ollie” Weeks, a police detective who works at the 88th Precinct. Ollie is in the early stages of a new romance with a uniformed officer and the story constantly flashes to the progress of their various dates. I kept expecting Ollie's story to somehow be linked to the case but it never happened. It appears that the Ollie Weeks story was just meant to simmer and may perhaps be continued in a later book. This is just pure speculation on my part, though.
There were also signs that Ed McBain was poking a bit of fun at the series, particularly when it comes to the agelessness of his characters. In one scene, Cotton Hawes was entering a building and noticed some elderly people drinking cups of coffee and wondered what it must be like to grow older, to reach your fifties or sixties. Given that the series is bearing down on it's 50th year and Cotton Hawes has barely aged a year in all that time, it's no wonder he's starting to grow curious about the elderly. Meanwhile, the detectives now have the benefit of the latest technology such as mobile phones and the Internet to assist them. It's a fascinating paradox of time and technological advancement clashing with the timelessness of the characters. And I'm sure Ed McBain is having a chuckle in this book.
on 19 March 2014
This is another characterisation and plot masterpiece by the master of this genre. Brutal, catchy, romantic, seedy and mundane are the moments we share within this story. Whilst it may have been Brillig in the slithy toves it certainly wasn't boring. A bittersweet experience. A great read.