Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Review: Ed McBain, Cop Hater (1956)

The American police procedural begins more or less here, with Ed McBain's first 87th Precinct novel in 1956. The prose is slapdash, but the plotting is impressive in its willful directionlessness. Someone murders a detective from the 87th Precinct, and the other detectives from the precinct, naturally, want to catch the killer, but the novel resists falling into a clichéd gathering of clues that lead inexorably to his identity. Rather, the detectives spend most of the novel frustrated as they follow a series of weak leads that go nowhere. In this way, McBain strives for a new sort of realism in crime fiction while at the same time still trying to provide readers with the page-turning momentum that they expect. Cop Hater does not entirely succeed; nevertheless, it is a valiant attempt at something new. Grade: B-

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