87th Precinct – THE FINAL FIVE BOOKS!!! // by Ed McBain

I honestly don’t know why I originally started reading the 87th Precinct books.  I think maybe they were listed somewhere as classics, and my innate inability to read books out of order meant I had to start at the beginning and work my way through them.  However it happened, I read the first of this series back in April 2018, and FINALLY read books 50-55 in October 2021!!  Breaking them into groups of five actually worked really well for working through this series.  So, here are a few thoughts on the final books, and then some thoughts on the series as a whole.

  • Money, Money, Money
  • Fat Ollie’s Book
  • The Frumious Bandersnatch
  • Hark!
  • Fiddlers

All in all, these ended up all being 4* reads and were a great way to conclude this series ALTHOUGH tragedy struck at the final hour – somehow, I had these written down wrong, and after reading FIFTY-THREE BOOKS in order, I somehow read #55 BEFORE reading #54!! I cannot possibly express to you how aggravated at myself I was! How could I do this?!  It literally made no difference except in my heart, but still!  I’m still mad!

ANYWAY the weirdest part about these last five books was the involvement/attempt at character redemption of Fat Ollie.  He’s one of those background characters who has popped in and out of several books.  He works for another precinct and everyone dislikes him because he’s a racist, sexist jerk.  However, he’s also weirdly good at being a detective.  Suddenly, in these books, McBain tries to somewhat redeem Ollie’s character by having him fall in love with a girl, which makes him start to reassess some of his prejudices.  I had mixed feelings about this.  I actually did feel like Ollie was growing as a person, but I’m also not sure how realistic it was, or even why McBain felt it was necessary to wander away from the detectives in the 87th to focus on Ollie instead.  When I looked at other reviews, there were a lot of complaints about this that basically said Ollie’s character was irredeemable, but I’m not sure I agree with that, either.  I do think people can change – and if we aren’t willing to believe that, to hope for that, to accept it when it happens – then the world really is a rather hopeless place.  So I decided to embrace the efforts to make Ollie a better person and hope that he continues on that path going forward.

All five of these had really good pacing and a bit more humor than a lot of the other books.  They also avoided the gratuitous and weird sex scenes from some of the earlier books, which was great.  McBain still enjoys killing people off more than I’d like him to (especially in The Frumious Bandersnatch – I was SO upset about a character he killed off there!), but they ARE murder mysteries soooo

McBain died the same year that the final book was published (2005) so I’m not sure if he actually intended that to be the final book in the series.  He did leave several of the regular characters in good places – I especially loved watching Carella wrestle with and come to grips with the changes in his family.  There’s a beautiful scene where he finally accepts his stepfather that honestly choked me up a bit.

All in all, I don’t regret reading this series, but I don’t see myself rereading them ALL.  I’ve held on to a few/marked a few that I would reread, but there are also several that I would NEVER read again even if they were the only book around lol  I do think it was worthwhile to see the way that various characters developed and evolved throughout the series.  I loved the way that McBain didn’t age his characters as rapidly as he aged the tech (the series spans 50 years of tech, but only about 15 years of detective-life haha).  The books definitely went through a rough patch in the 80s – my least favorite books were all from that decade – but the final five left me wishing that there were more left to read.

I’m not sure I can exactly recommend this series, but I did enjoy it and am a bit sorry to part ways with the fellows from the 87th.  I may have to revisit them from time to time… just not all 55 books!!