cover image There Was a Little Girl

There Was a Little Girl

Ed McBain, Evan Hunter. Grand Central Publishing, $30 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51739-3

After 40 years and more than 100 books, McBain (aka Evan Hunter) continues to amaze and entertain. In this 11th Matthew Hope novel (Mary, Mary), the hero spends most of his time in a semi-coma after being shot outside a bar on the seedy side of Calusa, Fla., despite his vow to avoid the criminal side of his law practice. Meanwhile, Hope's PI pals Warren Chambers and Toots Kiley, as well as police detective Morris Bloom, try to reconstruct Hope's previous week, probings that are intercut with flashbacks to Hope's own investigation of the years-old suicide of a circus star. What emerges is an intricate, lurid tale of sex, blackmail and murder fueled by greed. ``Little girl'' refers to the dead circus star, a fully developed woman only three feet tall. Or it may be an old slang term for cocaine, in high demand among certain circus folk. Or it may even stand for lesbian child abuse-or all of the above. The tracings and retracings of Hope's trail among a large, colorful, unsavory cast are fascinating, and the final revelations-about some very nasty people-are stunning. This is the kind of book we hope for from a grandmaster like McBain. Major ad/promo. (Oct.)