cover image Mary, Mary

Mary, Mary

Ed McBain, Evan Hunter. Grand Central Publishing, $30 (372pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51738-6

In the 10th nursery rhyme-themed title starring attorney Matthew Hope (after Three Blind Mice ), Mary Barton is, in fact, a gardener of quite contrary personality, but she says she's no murderer. After a telephone repairman unearths the bodies of three children in Mary's backyard and various witnesses connect her with the dead, it seems unlikely that Hope can prevent Mary's conviction. With more than 60 million copies of his 80-plus books in print, McBain has a large following, which makes it all the more regrettable that he resorts here to an amateurish resolution relying on an outrageously cliched and improbable plot twist. While the writing is competent--Hope handles his defense of Mary with lunchbucket clarity--it is not enough to arouse interest in the title character or in the personal secret that eventually resolves the mystery. The suspense is deflated early on in an unidentified monologue that will tip off even semi-alert readers to the ridiculous development to come. Seldom has line-to-line craft been wasted in support of such a slipshod plot. Major ad/promo; Mystery Guild main selection; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternate; major ad/promo; author tour. (Apr.)