Saturday, February 4, 2017

Nocturne (87th Precinct #48)Nocturne by Ed McBain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Three white males, two dead black dudes, and a dead white hooker, Ollie thought, and farted."

I have criticized and even ridiculed the installments of the 87th Precinct saga so many times that it feels nice to be able to recommend yet another item from the series, after above average Ghosts and not-that-bad Vespers . In my partial re-read project I select novels written roughly every five years (between 1956 and 2005), but since my library does not have Romance (1995) I have read a 1997 entry, Nocturne, the 48th novel in the set.

Carella and Hawes catch a murder case of an elderly woman who was a famous concert pianist in her youth. As the painstaking investigation begins the same pair of detectives have to deal with an apparently related killing of a prostitute. And as if it weren't enough, the case is soon connected to yet another murder, a double one, which occurs in another precinct and is handled by the increasingly frequent guest character in the 87th Precinct series - detective Ollie Weeks. The latter murders play quite a prominent role in the plot, and I have been really impressed with the thread featuring the prep school football players. One rarely meets more depraved and repulsive characters than these three nice, all-American boys excelling in the nation's most favorite sport - violence.

The complicated plot involves a voodoo ceremony, cockfighting, a hard-core sexual fivesome, traces of fish on a mink coat, and even a little fun with Italian language - hard not to like the "Boff on gool" bit. We have a comic interlude about trying to register a citizen's complaint over a city government's automated phone system. In fact, if not for the grim thread featuring the football players, the novel would resemble a dark comedy. I suspect that Mr. McBain was inspired by Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.

And for once I can forgive the author all his irritating clichés repeated for the umpteenth time: Carella's slanted eyes, the white streak in Detective Hawes' hair, the unkempt Detective Weeks. I can also forgive the completely unfunny bit - repeated in its entirety from another novel - about El Castillo de Palacíos, and the lame and implausible thread with Georgie and Tony. I am so forgiving because for once Mr. McBain unhesitatingly points his finger at what is at the bottom of many ills that plague our society - the pervasive, all encompassing cult, culture, and cultivation of violence:
"The way Ollie looked at it, nobody in this country was really concerned about violence, anyway. If they were, they'd put the V-chip on football and hockey games. What really bugged Americans was sex."
This admittedly bigoted detective, so cliché in his smelly and farty ways, is really good at his job. He is also pretty sharp. And certainly a way more realistic character than, say, Steve Carella.

Three and a half stars.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment