You know when a long running tv series gets about three quarters through the season it often kicks out an episode where our heroes get caught up in a bank siege or some other contrivance that sees them confined to one or two rooms. Basically they spent all the budget on flashier episodes. Killer's Wedge feels a bit like one of those but in a book. It's easy to become over critical though and forget that 87th Precinct was never meant to be still being appraised, praised and loved over half a century later. They were just 25cent pocket book ephemera that folk might fill a dinner hour or a boring commute with. A woman turns up at the 87th squad room armed with a gun, a bottle of nitro and a heart filled with hate for Detective Steve Carella. Most of the shift of detectives are present, or stumble in on the proceedings, with the exception of Carella himself. He's off at a creaky old mansion trying to solve a locked room mystery. And it's a very dull mystery with even duller suspects that has the detective mainly fiddling with the locked door, bits of string and crow bars. Meanwhile back at the squad room various members of the shift roster, including our new hero Cotton Hawes try to work out a way to divest the murderous revenge lady of her weapons. The tension gets cranked to the max for sure, and there's a great wildcard character introduced to the mix, a girl who may or may not have slit a gang leader's throat... but I just didn't enjoy the experience. On the plus side we did get a bit of a look at the inner workings of the precinct. Aside from all that I look forward to the boys getting back to what they do best - fighting crime and shooting the breeze.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series, but when I tried reading Ice a few years ago it failed to strike a chord with me and I had to quit on my stool. I am, however, a sucker for a locked room mystery, and the presence of such in Killer’s Wedge lured me back for another shot. The results, it must be said, are somewhat mixed.
There is a genuine narrative reason for McBain keeping his two strands – a hostage drama and the aforementioned locked room – isolated, but they consequently feel like a novella and a short story respectively that have simply been cut up and mixed into each other then padded out with some (admittedly rather wonderful) descriptions. To add to the frustrations, all the police characters talk in exactly the same voice (seriously, everybody calls it 'soup' – what’s up with that?) and the conclusions of each plot are really rather underwhelming once you get there.
No-one is pretending this is high art, though, and I ripped through it in no time at all, thanks largely to the immediacy of McBain’s writing (“It’s not a conspiracy,” Meyer corrected. “It’s a spontaneous program of hatred.”) and the resourcefulness of his plotting in the siege thread that comprises the significantly larger and more interesting portion of the book. A lot of care has gone into what could easily have been a pulp-y mess, and for that alone I can’t just dismiss this one out of hand.
Not an unqualified success, but if anyone can make a recommendation of where to go next with the boys from the 87th, I’d certainly check them out again...
At times this almost feels like McBain's take on "Twelve Angry Men" with its taut, claustrophobic one room drama playing out for most of the book. A woman seeking vengeance on Steve Carella for the imprisonment of her husband takes colleagues at the 87th Precinct hostage with a gun and a bottle suspected to contain nitroglycerin, and there they wait for him to return.
Meanwhile, Carella is out on a case, trying to solve a locked room mystery. As usual, McBain weaves his story together wonderfully well, not wasting a word and bringing things eventually to a satisfying enough conclusion. This one feels a little bit contrived, to be honest, almost as if McBain was obliged to pen something but not sure where to take the series next. Nevertheless, McBain in slightly under par form is still way better than most crime writers operating today. Lean, no nonsense, and shot through with the black humour and slightly erotic, saucy writing that surely must have been slightly risque for the times, this is streets ahead of most stuff being churned out today under the label of police procedural. Enjoyable.
An overheated squad room. A vengeful wife. A suspicious death. How far would you go defending the innocent? A fast paced thriller, with sub stories running together. I really couldn't put this one down!
A locked room mystery and a siege in the bullpen. I found this book really gripping and just couldn't put it down. I loved the range of emotions covered in very spare prose during the siege and the fact that nobody picked up the coded messages as it was all very realistic.
Carella investigates a 'locked room' murder involving a wealthy family, not realising that back at the 87th Precinct a young woman is holding his colleagues hostage. What she wants is Carella - dead.
One of the best 87th Precinct novels yet. The murder mystery strand may not be very satisfying (though the solution is memorable) but McBain gets a lot of mileage out of the hostage scenario, seemingly working through every possible escape plan the cops could come up with. Fast paced read, some decent tension and an ending which could have played down the threat but, thankfully, doesn't. Great read.