The Last Dance by Ed McBain
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
" As he sang, his voice became a choir of voices, the voices of a hundred tribes with as many different backgrounds, joining together in this shining new land, to become at last a single strong united tribe."
The Last Dance, the 50th installment in Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series, is the penultimate novel in my selective, half-decade-skipping re-read of the famous set. Strangely, the world shown in this book published in 2000 seems as close to the New York's universe captured at the time of the first novel (1956) as to the world of 2017. The plot is a mixed bag of good parts combined with unbearable clichés and filler stuff.
A woman calls the police to report that her father has died: Carella and Myer catch the squeal and despite the father's history of heart condition they suspect death by hanging. Alas the captivating first chapter is followed by the appearance of Danny Gimp, the informer, from whom Carella wants to get "the word on the street." Ugh, double ugh. I forced myself to go on reading and wade through the clichés and stupefying silliness: Monoghan and Monroe, Ollie Week shtick with his food-stained ties and W.C. Fields imitations, and other tedious stuff repeated for the umptieth time. But I am happy that I did not toss the book because the author suddenly decides to quit repeating his previous novels and offers quite interesting events in the plot. There are more murders, detectives from other precincts join the investigation, international connections emerge, and the whole mess has not an implausible ending, luckily devoid of idiotic plot twists.
The reader will find a few powerful passages, like the one I quote in the epigraph, and some serious issues are touched as well. Ed McBain writes bitterly about the state of race relations in the country. Unfortunately his cynical diagnosis - that nothing has improved and very little is likely to change - stands validated now, 17 years later. He writes about gross incompetence and pervasive corruption in the "correctional" business. The business side of sex services in a go-go joint is explained in detail. On a lighter side we have a parody of the famous Hold the chicken scene from Five Easy Pieces and Fat Ollie Weeks hires a piano teacher to help him learn to play exactly five songs.
Well, The Last Dance manages to escape a very low rating but I feel relieved that my next novel to re-read in the series, Fiddlers (2005), will be the last.
Two and a quarter stars.
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