87th Precinct Mysteries // Books 21-25 // by Ed McBain

21. Eighty Million Eyes (1966)
22. Fuzz (1968)
23. Shotgun (1968)
24. Jigsaw (1970)
25. Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here (1971)

I haven’t done a review for these in a little while, although I have still been working through batches of five at a time (there are an astounding 55 titles in this series, so I still have quite a ways to go!).  They are short, snappy, and snarky, and I really enjoy them a lot.  It’s interesting to watch them progress through time as well – the first was published in 1956 – for instance, Miranda rights were established in the mid-1960’s, so McBain makes a big deal out of them in these books, emphasizing the mixed feelings the officers themselves have about this limitation on what they are and aren’t allowed to say and do to suspects.

This was a pretty strong set of five.  Eighty Million Eyes was clever and fun.  When a man dies on live television, killed by a very fast-acting poison, it seems impossible to believe that someone could have killed him while eighty million eyes were watching him.

In Fuzz we had the return of the nemesis of the 87th Precinct, the Deaf Man.  In one of the author notes in one of these books, McBain was saying that he really wanted to write a lot more deaf man stories, but the truth was that the Deaf Man was cleverer than even McBain, so it was a struggle!  In this story, there is a fairly large coincidence that brings down the Deaf Man’s plot, but in a way that’s kind of the point – the Deaf Man actually IS smarter than the detectives, and it’s only sheer dumb luck that keeps allowing them to thwart him.

Shotgun had a great twist, and also emphasized one of the random things that I like about this series – small continuities throughout.  While each of these would read perfectly well as a standalone, reading them in order does let small details build together.  While the story in He Who Hesitates was concluded in a fairly satisfactory manner, in this book, a side plot is an even more satisfying postscript to that story.

Each story focuses on a different detective, and we got to focus on one that had mostly been a background character up until this time.  It was interesting to travel with Detective Brown (brown both in name and in color, he says), as McBain rather sarcastically explores the racism of the time.  I loved the way they used that racism to the precinct’s advantage.

The final book in this batch, Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here, was a completely different pattern from the usual – instead of one major mystery at the center of the story, it just focuses on a 24 hour period at the precinct, with all the small mysteries and disturbances that come with it.  It made for rather addictive reading, trying to find out what was happening with several small stories all crisscrossing together.

If you’re sensitive to things like annoying men referring to women as “broads” and that sort of thing, you should steer clear of these.  But if you can accept it all as part of the fun (and part of the times), these are fun and fast procedurals, with McBain’s genuine respect and admiration for city detectives – and his love for the city itself – at their core.