The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ 'The Mugger'

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ 'The Mugger'

Hardcover Honey Jocelyn's Book of the Week

The Mugger by Ed McBain

This week your Hardcover Honey is deep in the spring real estate market and is working like a crazy person, so although she hoped this week to bring you a review of the new Andrew Pyper book The Damned (excellent so far), she is only halfway through it. Instead, you’ll get a review of a much quicker recent read and a general recommendation for a series to dive into if you haven’t before.

Ed McBain (one of the many pen names of the prolific Salvatore Lombino) passed away in 2005 and between the world losing him, Robert B. Parker, and Donald Westlake, it is a much poorer place.

One of McBain’s (and yes I get the Simpsons reference and I freaking love it) most productive series was the 87th Precinct series, comprised of over 50 novels spanning many years but featuring lots of the same familiar faces, including serious and competent police detective Steve Carella and his deaf wife Teddy, affable Bert Kling, gruff captain Peter Byrnes, bald and friendly Meyer Meyer (his dad was quite the comedian), etc. Sometimes one will take storyline A, while the others fade out a bit, and then switch in the next book, etc.

So picture it as a better, earlier, bookier version of shows like Law & Order or Hill Street Blues, but often with a more garish twist – I specifically recall being horrified in high school when I finished one of the novels and found the ending scene dealing with a kidnapped policeman who was tied to a bed and had been skinned alive. Ummmm, I never remember that from Hill Street Blues!

This week had me reading one I hadn’t seen before and picked up in a used book store recently – The Mugger – and while not one of the strongest outings (where is Detective Carella?  Off on a trip?  Boo!!), it was still worth a read for a decent noir storyline and a glimpse at police work before cell phones and the Internet (seemed pretty difficult frankly).

Author "Ed McBain"
The Mugger ostensibly deals with just that, a mugger roaming the streets of a fictionalized version of NYC, who attacks single women, steals their purses, punches them and then bows at the waist, declaring "Clifford thanks you, madam!." The detectives of the 87th Precinct are at a loss.

Meanwhile, patrolman Bert Kling is newly home from the hospital after a shooting and bored to tears. When an old friend of his shows up asking him to talk some sense into his young and beautiful sister-in-law, you better believe that Bert gives it the old college try. And when that same girl shows up later with her beautiful head bashed in, and the medical examiner notes that she was pregnant, Bert knows he has to follow up.

The dialogue is dated at times and I’m pretty sure nobody wears hats quite as much as they used to, but that’s the thing about this series – in a way, it’s timeless. You can dip into any of the books at any time and you will come out the other side entertained. The men are heroic, the women mostly gorgeous, the lines are snappy and what are you waiting for? Go pick up a battered 87th Precinct paperback and get started. When you get done, let me know and we’ll talk about his Matthew Hope series and his even more disturbing books under the Evan Hunter name. I miss you, Ed McBain, and your pals Parker and Westlake too!

Hardcover Honey verdict – 4.5 grizzled cops out of 5 for the series as a whole!

What are YOU reading this week? 
Share your picks with Jocelyn on Twitter: @jbrivard