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An Average Entry in an Above-Average Series
The Big Bad City
Ed McBain
McBain is the undisputed master of the procedural; in my own reading experience only John Creasey's "Gideon of Scotland Yard" and Sjowall and Wahloo's "Martin Beck" novels come near.

Even poor McBain is better than most other authors' best, and this book is by no means poor or bad; just average.

By this point, McBain is writing psychological studies as much he is mysteries; whodunnit and even howdunnit is generally less the point than *why*dunnit.

McBain characterises through dialog better than almost any other writer of popular fiction i can think of, and his work exudes a solid sense of *place* -- of location -- that adds weight and dimension to it. Isola may be fictitious, but by now, fifty books along, i could walk its streets with less chance of getting lost than i would if in Chicago, where i was born fifty years ago.

The plot this issue is, indeed, razor thin, more an excuse to string together a series of events and encounters and to show us our old friends Carella, Kling, Fat Ollie Weeks and the rest doing what cops do.

There are some Important Events -- one long-running character finally comes to the end of his run, and there is at least one unresolved thread that may well be central to the next volume in the series.

And i am sure there *will* be another -- though he has wound up his other series (the "fairytale" books about Matthew Hope, Florida lawyer), i do not believe that Ed McBain will be able to stop writing until they pry his cold dead fingers off his keyboard...

A "must-read" if you're already a fan; if not, go back to "Lady Lady I Did It" or "Fuzz" or "Sadie When She Died" or "King's Ransom" or almost any mid-period 87th novel, and begin.

((By the way -- "King's Ransome" was brilliantly adapted into a film set in contemporary Japan by Akira Kurosawa, under the title "High & Low". The plot translated perfectly.))

If you're a mystery fan who has so far managed to miss the 87th books, you won't regret discovering them.