Thursday Reviews: Fuzz by Ed McBain

Fuzz

Ed McBain

The Deaf Man returns to taunt the 87th Precinct in 1968’s Fuzz. It starts with a phone call to the precinct informing the detectives that, if $5000 is not delivered to Grover Park by noon tomorrow, a city commissioner will die. The police don’t take it seriously. The commissioner is actually annoyed. They put a lunch pail, per instructions, on a park bench full of phony money, then nab the guy sent to pick it up. They lose him. The commissioner is shot dead hours later. When $50,000 is demanded to save the deputy mayor’s life, no one thinks it’s a crank call. The deputy mayor is put under police protection. This time, they pick up the guy sent after the money, a random construction worker, or so it seems, who not only seems to know nothing, but is also involved in something else entirely. The deputy mayor is surrounded by protection.

Which does no good, since his car explodes, killing him and his police protection. By now, the police commissioner is breathing down Lt. Byrnes neck, tragically named Meyer Meyer, vertically challenged Hal Willis, and Detective Arthur Brown realize they’re chasing the Deaf Man, who blew up Isola’s port a few years earlier to cover up a bank robbery. Where’s Steve Carella?

Posing as a homeless guy trying to get set on fire so he can arrest two teenaged dirt bags. Guess how well that works? It’s been a couple of novels since McBain put Carella in the hospital, and this time, it results from a painful series of Keystone Cop incidents.

The Deaf Man, who finally makes an appearance about half way through the book, is a hint that this is going to be more of a comedic action thriller.  He fancies himself a modern-day Moriarty and believes the detectives of the 87th aren’t really all that bright. Of course, the Deaf Man always manages to let his ego get in the way.

Fuzz marks the return of Eileen Burke, last seen in The Mugger, and the debut of Richard Genero, who is a patrolman in this story, but clearly on his way to becoming a detective. Like Cotton Hawes, who was created to phase out Carella early in the series (which never happened), Genero seems to be filling a role once filled by Bert Kling, who also started out in uniform. Kling has lost his fiancee, gone through a severe depression, and come out the other side almost as experienced as Carella and Meyer.

Speaking of the 87th’s resident Eisenhower look-alike, Meyer has his own personal crisis in this one. Someone’s written a book about a character named Meyer Meyer, also the title of the book. That just ain’t right, Meyer thinks, and spends part of the book trying to learn if he can sue the author.

This book is also a transitional entry in th 87th Precinct series. The detectives are dealing with Miranda rights now. Eileen Burke seems a bit more liberated than in her last appearance. Andy Parker, the resident bigot, is toned down a little bit, being just generally annoying in this one.

It seems whenever McBain wants to update the series, he brings in the Deaf Man to shake things up, then sends him away again with his tail between his legs.

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3 thoughts on “Thursday Reviews: Fuzz by Ed McBain

  1. It’s good to see you’re reviewing McBain books. He seems to have fallen off the radar since his death, and he may have been the best ever. Time for a renaissance.

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