87th Precinct Meets The Wire

McNulty and Bunk

Source: HBO

When I began writing Holland Bay,I thought about it as 87th Precinct meets The Wire. I had envisioned the detectives of Holland Bay to be like those of the 87th Precinct in that each subsequent book would feature a different detective. When I first described this to another writer at a Bouchercon, he asked me who my Carella was. I said I looked at them all equally. So he said, “Well, there has to be a first among equals.”

But McBain’s detectives, while not exactly perfect, are not also paragons of dysfunction. Carella is tempted by the fruit of a couple of others, but does not stray. Bert Kling has woman troubles. Meyer Meyer must deal with his baldness and his odd name. My detectives are dysfunctional as hell.

But McBain wrote about cops as the everyman. Even the seedier ones like Andy Parker (whom most of us would like to shove under an express train to Calm’s Point) and Fat Ollie Weeks (the 87th’s own bigoted uncle) are humans with flaws and struggles. But McBain also writes about the job of the 87th as a mission. They are the thin blue line in Isola.

87th Precinct

“87th Precinct Complete” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:87th_Precinct_Complete.jpg#/media/File:87th_Precinct_Complete.jpg

But my approach resembled something more recent: The Wire. On David Simon’s masterpiece of a TV series, not all the gang bangers are villains and not all the cops are good guys. In fact sometimes they’re neither. If Steve Carella is the man every other man wants to be, Jimmy McNulty is what happens when they fail. As smart and dedicated as Carella, he lacks political skill and responds to the stress of his job by drinking to dangerous excess and cheating on the women in his life, including his mistress in season 1. Stringer Bell is a shrewd, manipulative criminal not above murder to further his own ends, but you can’t help but rooting for him. Bell is going to college and running Baltimore’s drug operation like a business, right down to branding the dope and holding business meetings with corner boys.

The main difference is the approach of the creators. Simon admits The Wire, along with Homicide: Life on the Streets and Oz, are angry shows about the decline of the American dream. Quite often the criminals depicted (many of whose real-life inspirations appeared on the show) are actually the ones living the dream only to be killed or jailed when someone lower down the food chain takes them out. Like McBain’s bulls, the cops of the Baltimore PD are flawed, but their flaws sometimes consume them. The cheat on their spouses, drink excessively, lie to their coworkers, and openly try to sabotage the brass, many of whom are barely qualified to carry a badge, let alone run a police department. McBain’s crew is world-weary but conscientious.

It’s this blend that went into Holland Bay. I hope you soon get the chance to see what I did with it.

Friday Reviews: Calypso and Ghosts by Ed McBain

Calypso by Ed McBainCalypso

Ed McBain

A calypso singer is murdered one night walking home from a gig in the rain. In the wee hours of the following morning, so is a hooker. With the same gun. Before it’s all over, the reader is introduced to an insane woman holding a man prisoner.

I didn’t really like this 87th Precinct. It seems like it’s recycling the previous two novels. In this one, Carella worried about his faithfulness to his wife, Teddy (though never crosses any lines.) This was a major subplot of Long Time No See. And just two novels after Bert Kling’s wife is taken hostage by a stalker, So Long as You Both Shall Live, we have the roles reversed with a male captive and an obsessed female stalker. Even the presence of Monaghan and Monroe, the useless homicide detectives who do their vaudville schtick to the annoyance of Carella and the other detectives of the 87th, wear out their welcome in this one. So does Genero, the precinct’s resident idiot. Only Fat Ollie Weeks, who has become the series’s resident Archie Bunker, seems to be interesting in this one. I was disappointed.

 Ghosts by Ed McBainGHOSTS

Ed McBain

Detectives Steve Carella and Cotton Hawes respond to the fatal stabbing of a woman outside her apartment. The woman was stabbed once as she carried groceries into the building. While they start work on her death, a call comes through that another person is stabbed inside the building, this one a famous writer named Gregory Craig, who wrote a bestselling book about a haunted house in Massachusetts. The only witness? Craig’s young girlfriend, who is a dead ringer for Teddy Carella, Steve Carella’s wife.

The temptation of Carella has become a regular theme to the story at this point. Hillary Scott, the woman who could be Teddy’s twin, has a twin herself, one who eventually hits on Carella. In Calypso, it sounded like a rehash of Long Time No See. This time, however, the resemblance to Teddy Carella adds a new spin that not only messes with Carella but also resident lothario Cotton Hawes. Hawes finds the sisters very attractive but is made nervous by their resemblance to his partner’s wife. Late in the story, Carella is asleep in a motel room when he seems to dream that he gave into temptation. By the end of the scene, he’s not so convinced. So maybe the precinct’s resident boy scout may have finally screwed up.

Near the end of the story, in a scene reminiscent of Detective Rick Genero’s introduction in Fuzz, the character of Tak Fujiwara makes his debut. While I haven’t read any of the books featuring Tak, I suspect he’s there for two reasons. First, the squad needs a little diversity at this point. By 1980, Arthur Brown is the squad’s sole black officer, and his race only seems to be mentioned anymore if Fat Ollie Weeks is in the story. Second, Genero as the young rookie detective is kind of a dud. It seems like he’s supposed to be play the wet-behind-the-ears noob that Bert Kling had played up until Fuzz. However, he’s sort of become the village idiot, displacing bigoted lout Andy Parker in tandem with a smarter, more likeable bigot, Fat Ollie. However, while Fat Ollie (who gets only a passing mention in this story) is smart but ignorant with an interesting personality, Genero is little more than a punchline. Bringing in Tak off the streets is probably to correct that shortcoming. And notice that Parker hardly rates a mention anymore. Good riddance. He was an annoying character.

This one feels a bit more modern as McBain is clearly referencing The Amityville Horror, which had come a year before this, the first 87th Precinct novel of the 1980s. In one bizarre sequence, Carella may have actually seen a ghost. It not only scares Carella into paralysis but causes the psychic Hillary Scott to faint. McBain never actually says if it’s an actual ghost, but it’s enough to rattle the steely Carella. It’s a different entry in the 87th Precinct, which isn’t quite as flat as Calypso.

Friday Reviews: So Long As You Both Shall Live and Long Time, No See by Ed McBain

SLAYBSLSo Long As You Both Shall Live

Ed McBain

Usually, when Ed McBain wanted to goose the 87th Precinct forward, he would reintroduce the Deaf Man to basically act out what would now be a Michael Bay film at the expense of the bulls of the 87th. This time, however, he goes for one of his favorite hobbies: Tormenting young detective Bert Kling. Kling marries a fashion model named Augusta. She is kidnapped from their hotel room that night as Kling is taking a shower.

Steve Carella, normally the star of an 87th novel, and the tragically named Meyer Meyer have nothing to go on. And everyone in the squad, even bigoted moron Andy Parker, is giving it their all to find Augusta. Where is she?

Trapped in the apartment of a crazed man with a German accent who is obsessed with the woman in the fashion magazines. And he is very upset that Augusta would forsake him by marrying “that man.”

The case is cracked by the series’ newest regular, Fat Ollie Weeks. Weeks is slovenly, arrogant, and bigoted. Unlike Andy Parker, Weeks is 1.) smart and 2.) able to get past his own prejudices. Weeks has a soft spot for the 87th and steps into the case to give the squad a fresh set of eyes. He doesn’t know Kling, and he isn’t shy about asking uncomfortable questions. I suspect McBain was simply tired of Parker’s presence and knew the character couldn’t be fleshed out. No one likes Weeks as a person, but you can’t help but root for him.

longtimenoseeLong Time No See

Ed McBain

Steve Carella dodges Weeks in this tale of a murder of a blind couple. Jim Harrison is a blinded Vietnam vet who lives off begging and disability. He is black. His wife is white. At first, Carella suspects a racial motive. Then theft. Then…

He’s not really sure. He has to go all the way back to Harris’ s past, calling the Army and former members of Harris’s unit, even an old street gang Harris ran with before getting drafted. When another blind person is attacked, Carella worries that a serial killer is at work.

In the course of his investigation, Carella is hit on by a female sergeant whose husband is overseas. After the incident, Carella starts worrying about his ability to stay faithful to wife Teddy. To make matters worse, he has to go undercover in a massage parlor, one of those massage parlors, to question a witness.

This case is complex and twisting. Race threatens to become an issue, but the ending is much more bizarre.

The 87th Precinct

I’m about halfway through the 87th Precinct series, Ed McBain’s police procedural novels set in Isola, part of a fictional unnamed city that bears close resemblance to New York. While the city and its history parallels that of New York, it does have its own unique features. There do not seem to be any iconic buildings like the Empire State or the World Trade Center. However, the sections of the city correspond to New York – Isola is Manhattan, Calm’s Point is Brooklyn, Riverhead is The Bronx, Majesta is Queens, and Bethtown is Staten Island right down to being accessible only by ferry until the 1970’s.

It’s this fictional City that attracted me to the series, in many ways like Chris Nolan’s Gotham City (itself reinvented for the television series Gotham.) However, the real appeal is that the 87th Precinct is an ensemble work. Steve Carella, the no-nonsense, serious detective who features in most of the series, may be first among equals, but there’s a whole cast who get their turns as leads. In one novel, Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here, McBain (real name Evan Hunter, who wrote Blackboard Jungle and the screenplay for The Birds) bends himself in knots to get every then-current detective in the 87th into the book.

But Carella is the heart and soul of the series. A veteran and a family man, Carella is often the most focused member of the squad. Even when he’s not the central character, everyone turns to him for advice. Carella is frequently partnered with one of three detectives – Cotton Hawes, Bert Kling, and the tragically named Meyer Meyer. Hawes is a ladies man and originally introduced as a possible replacement for Carella. In his novel, Carella is seemingly killed off, only to have him recover in the final scene. (Which incidentally is one of the most emotionally intense scenes in the series.) Meyer is a patient man, his father giving him his first name as a joke that Meyer had to live with. Kling is a hot-headed young detective generally unlucky in love.

There are others. Arthur Brown, the squad’s only black detective (really a reboot of a detective killed off in the first novel, Cop Hater) is hip, suave, and popular. His polar opposite is the lazy, racist Andy Parker. However, McBain seems to grow tired of Parker by the mid-1970’s and demotes him to occasional appearances in favor of the racist, slovenly, but infinitely smarter and oddly likeable Fat Ollie Weeks. Weeks is that obnoxious uncle who makes you cringe but can’t help like. Parker is just an asshole.

There is also Detective Rick Gennero, promoted to plainclothes too soon and spectacularly dim. Hal Willis is the shortest man on the squad, though he can still kick ass. In the first half of the series, Detective Eileen Burke is almost completely absent. Though a later addition to the 87th, she shows up as an undercover detective from downtown.Her portrayal, too, is inconsistent. In her first appearance, Mugger, she’s a young officer annoyed with the boys of the 87th fretting that she’s putting herself in danger. In Fuzz, she’s portrayed as a young, sex-starved girl enjoying her cover making out with Gennero while trying to catch the Deaf Man.

Speaking of whom, the Deaf Man generally appears whenever McBain wants to shake up the series. He is an odd variation on Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes, usually undone by his arrogance.

The series starts out as a parallel to Dragnet, but it eventually takes on its own character. If it has a parallel in later years, it’s the eighties police drama Hill Street Blues, which also takes place in a fictional unnamed city. Hill Street, though, was a bit of a soap opera. Homicide, which also has a lot in common with 87th Precinct, was actually a retelling of real stories from the Baltimore Police Department. It’s a far cry from The Wire, perhaps the best known police show today, but there’s something comforting in the 87th Precinct’s slow pace of change. The series is divorced from the calendar the way a lot of literary crime is, but it still illustrates the changes in police work since its inception in 1956.

Friday Reviews: Bread and Blood Relatives by Ed McBain

Bread by Ed McBainBread

McBain shakes up his 87th Precinct series once more by introducing one of its best known characters in this 1974 installment. Steve Carella and Cotton Hawes have one of bigoted Andy Parker’s cases dumped in their laps by a distraught warehouse owner who suffered a fire. Seems Parker did the minimum work required, never filed a report, and went on vacation. Carella, who punched Parker in the squad room, has to go visit Parker, whose idea of a vacation is sitting around in his underwear swilling beer.

Carella and Hawes begin pulling strings and find themselves crossing paths with Fat Ollie Weeks, another bigoted cop. Unlike Parker, Weeks is actually, yanno, good. Between the three of them, they uncover shady real estate dealings in one of Isola’s worst neighborhoods, a call girl ring, and a case of insurance fraud involving a German company.

This novel is a bit more light-hearted than the previous installment, Hail to the Chief. Hail was politically charged and captured the tension of the early 1970’s perfectly. Bread moves the 87th Precinct firmly into the 70’s, however. The one-time World War II vets of the squad are now implied to have served in Vietnam, one of the problems with putting characters on a sliding calendar. But it’s the mid-1970’s, and when even the most benign prejudices surface, we feel the black characters’ discomfort and humiliation more. Plus, Parker has become obsolete at this point. At this point in time, Parker would already face civil rights charges simply for his behavior toward Detective Arthur Brown.

Hence, Ollie Weeks. Ollie is a bigot, but he’s more of an Archie Bunker type vs. Parker, who belongs in a stereotypical Southern town. Weeks’ bias is not so much deliberate as it is ignorant. He apologizes to one suspect when he realizes the man is probably clean, but is genuinely puzzled when Carella calls him out for being a lout. In other words, Parker is a cardboard cutout; Weeks is complex and even tolerable. Plus McBain seems tired of having an idiot working among his cops. The hapless Rick Genero fills that role nicely.

Blood Relatives by Ed McBainBlood Relatives

If Bread had a lighter tone, Blood Relatives goes dark. Very dark.

We open with a bloodied Patricia Lowery staggering into the 87th Precinct to announce that her cousin was raped and murdered before her eyes. The killer than tried to do the same to her. Meanwhile, a patrolman finds said cousin lying dead in the rain, obviously violated and dead. What follows is a twisting, winding tale of obsession, incest, and misdirection. At first, Patricia describes an unknown man, then accuses her brother, who had an obsession with his first cousin. Eventually, Bert Kling and Steve Carella find the dead girl’s diary, which reveals yet another suspect. The ending is disturbing, surprising, and tragic.

Friday Reviews: Sadie When She Died and Hail To The Chief by Ed McBain

Sadie When She Died

Gary Fletcher comes home to find his wife Sarah dead, a knife sticking out of her belly. Fletcher not only has an alibi, but he’s taken great pains to avoid the crime scene while waiting for the police. He’s also gleefully happy to be a single man again. That bugs Steve Carella of Isola’s 87th Precinct. Even after a junkie confesses to the murder, clearly upset at what he’s done, Carella still thinks Fletcher did it, that the junkie only stabbed the woman. Fletcher finished the job.

Somehow, Carella manages to get a wire up on Fletcher’s mistress and his car. And Fletcher seems to be dropping hints that he may not be entirely innocent. In the meantime, it becomes clear why Fletcher hated his wife so. He knew her as Sarah, but several boyfriends on the side knew her as Sadie. And they had a lot of fun with Sadie.

This is a darker 87th Precinct novel, exploring the dark side of sexuality and adultery. The fifties motif that has run through the 87th Precinct series is rapidly fading. In fact, Carella’s frequent partner Bert Kling gets a little wistful when The Beatles’ “Something” is played on a jukebox. As for Kling himself, he’s finding the departure of Cindy Forrest from his life is a bit messier than either of them would like. It complicates his already complicated pursuit of a new woman, Nora Simonov.

Hail to the Chief

Carella and Kling, who seem to be the stars of this series now, find themselves at the edge of the 87th Precinct, where six nude corpses lie in a construction ditch. From there, the story goes back and forth between the investigation, which includes detectives from the 101st in neighboring borough Riverhead and across the River Harb in a town called Turman, and the long, rambling confession of Randall Nesbitt, the “president” of a “clique” called the Yankee Rebels. What follows is a long, complex war between three gangs in Riverhead. McBain even explains the history of Riverhead, which has no rivers and no headwaters in it. Lest ye think his unnamed city is not an analog to New York, compare Riverhead’s history and name to that of The Bronx.

What makes this story particularly creepy is Nebitt’s confession. Some have likened it to Richard Nixon’s justification for the war in Vietnam. However, Nesbitt comes off as a well-spoken version of Charles Manson. He did little actual killing, but he ordered it for the good of the city. Between Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here, Sadie When She Died, and Hail to the Chief, Kling undergoes a continuity error. In Hail, Hail, he meets and falls in love with redheaded model Gussie. However, in Sadie, he’s making moves on Nora Simonov and trying to get closure from ex-fiancee Cindy Forrest. Then in Chief, he’s contemplating marriage with Gussie without so much as a reference to either Nora or Cindy. Or maybe it’s a function of Kling’s rotten luck with women.

This story is a stretch for McBain. The detectives take a backseat to the drama that is the gangs of Riverhead. Late in the story, he even juxtaposes the final street battle with Meyer Meyer’s rape prevention talk, itself unsettling in its candor and detail. This is a very different 87th Precinct, and it’s clear McBain has left the 1950’s far behind.

Friday Reviews: Hail Hail The Gang’s All Here & Let’s Hear It For The Deaf Man by Ed McBain

Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here
Ed McBain

It’s really several stories for the 87th Precinct this time as Ed McBain brings all the current bulls together. Beginning at midnight Sunday morning, Meyer Meyer finds himself chasing ghosts. Literally, he is chasing ghosts when a woman calls to say her house is haunted. Carella and Hawes work their off hours as bigoted loudmouth Andy Parker is shot in the line of duty. Vertically-challenged detective Hal Willis takes rookie detective Rick Genero with him to find out why a naked hippie fell to his death from a four-story window. Bert Kling finds himself in the aftermath of a storefront church bombing, while Alex Delgado finds his skills dealing with the Puerto Rican residents put to the test. Finally, Carl Kapek goes hunting for a sexy female mugger who managed to get a Marine beatup.

All these would have been fine short stories in and of themselves, but there seems to be a lot of confusion following multiple cases. As a result, there’s not that much memorable about it. It seems as though McBain needs to reboot his series again. When that happens, you can count on the Deaf Man to return. He does in…

Let’s Hear It for the Deaf Man

Ed McBain

The Deaf Man does return, taunting the detectives of the 87th Precinct with a series of photostats to give them a sporting chance to foil his next operation, as usual, a bank robbery. He even calls Carella and Meyer to say hello and drop a few more hints. This is actually good, a little entertainment for the bulls while they deal with a baffling set of burglaries. Bert Kling lands this case and scores some help from a uniform on the beat hoping to make detective to lessen the blow of a recent divorce. He also scores with a model. Poor Bert. But the burglar is a bit odd. He gets in with a duplicate key, which not only baffles Kling, the building supers, and a couple of locksmiths, but leaves an annoying lack of evidence. The burglar also leaves a calling card, a kitten. At least until one is accidentally killed. Then he leaves a ceramic one.

As always, the Deaf Man, who serves more as comic relief this time, breathes new life into the 87th Precinct. It’s now the seventies. The World War II references are growing a bit thin, but the profanity explodes in this one. McBain is finally comfortable with sprinkling a moderate number of F bombs into dialog without being gratuitous.

Thursday Reviews: Shotgun; Jigsaw by Ed McBain


Ed McBain

A married couple is found, both with shotgun blasts to the face. The husband is found holding a shotgun pointed at what’s left of his chin. Suicide, right?

Well, no. A patrolman finds a spent shell that could only be ejected if the husband were alive to eject. So much for the open-and-shut case. Things get even stranger when Steve Carella and Bert Kling visit the husband’s place of business. He was supposed to be on the West Coast when he killed his wife and blew his brains out. Even more frustrating, they find a primo suspect only to find he’s disappeared into thin air.

For Kling, things get particularly sticky when his girlfriend, Cindy Forrest, explains how Kling is the basis for her doctoral thesis. Complicating matters is a witness named Anne Gilroy, whose boss refers to her as a nymphomaniac. She apparently thinks that’s a compliment, and wants Bert. Not a good time for the young detective to go astray.

This 87th Precinct takes place in 1968. The language is saltier, and the skirts are higher. In some ways, Shotgun is a throwback to earlier 87th Precinct novels where Kling is usually paired with Carella. There’s a red herring that resolves the unsolved murder from He Who Hesitates that offers a little misdirection on another murder dumped on the tragically named Meyer Meyer. It seems, though, that since Fuzz, McBain’s style has gotten looser, and there’s a more tongue-in-cheek vibe to the series. Shotgun is one of the better 87’s as McBain keeps the plot twisting with every chapter.


Ed McBain

It’s starts with a double murder. One guy shoots the man who is stabbing him to death. What was it over? A piece of a photograph. Then an insurance investigator shows up, claiming there’s more to that photograph than what the bulls of the 87th Precinct have. It falls to Steve Carella and Arthur Brown to find the rest of it, as it will solve a years-old robbery case. Soon, the oddly-named Meyer Meyer and perennial man whore Cotton Hawes are drawn in as people who have, or allegedly have, pieces of the photograph start dying. A couple from natural causes, more from more violent methods.

It’s 1969, and you can tell. Hawes is all over a witness in a leather miniskirt while Brown runs up against the racial tension of the day. Arthur Brown is not Bunk Moreland from The Wire. But Bunk’s job would not have been possible without cops like Brown. Carella, however, plays more of a supporting role in this one, being the “token Italian” in the group.

There are some comedic moments, such as when Brown has to interview an aged hooker. Meyer has to endure Hawes’ attempts to bed miniskirted witnesses while no one seems to get Carella’s name right.

The City’s New York is showing in this one. Usually, it is its own entity, even with side trips from Isola (Manhattan) into Riverhead (The Bronx) and Calm’s Point (Brooklyn), but Carella and Brown take the ferry to Bethtown to question a witness. At that point, Bethtown goes from an analog of Staten Island to Staten Island itself. From that point, all I could see was New York rather than a fictional city, even when New York is mentioned in previous 87th Precinct novels.

All in all, this was a pretty cool read.

Thursday Reviews: Fuzz by Ed McBain


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.

Thursday Reviews: 80 Million Eyes by Ed McBain

80 Million Eyes

Ed McBain

Stan Gifford is a popular comedian. Popular, that is, to the 80 million pairs of eyes that tune into his show every Wednesday night. He is not popular with the staff of his show, not his head writer, not his wardrobe matron, not his long-suffering producer. So when Stan drops dead in front those 80 million eyes, his doctor rushes to the studio and tells Detective Meyer Meyer of the 87th Precinct that an autopsy may be in order. Turns out Gifford was poisoned. For Meyer and Carella, it’s a few days of frustration as everyone trips over themselves to make sure they aren’t suspects.

Meanwhile, Bert Kling investigates an assault on a familiar face. Cynthia Forrest, whose father was killed by the same sniper that killed Kling’s fiancee, is not thrilled to see who the 87th sent to track down her stalker. Nonetheless, the stalker has beat up a fellow officer. Kling decides to draw him out as he seems to think he’s Cynthia’s new boyfriend. The stalker manages to attack Cynthia, putting her in the hospital.

Around the time Kling draws him out, Meyer and Carella figure out how a fast acting poison no one saw Gifford take killed him in front of a nationwide audience.

It’s an interesting 87th. Kling is not so dark in this one. Indeed, in the previous 87th Precinct novel, he was nearly kicked off the force. Meyer and Carella are involved in one of McBain’s favorite gambits, a classic whodunnit.