cover image The Last Best Hope

The Last Best Hope

Ed McBain. Grand Central Publishing, $30 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51990-8

McBain, an MWA Grandmaster, seamlessly combines the casts and locales of his Matthew Hope and 87th Precinct series into a coherent and entertaining whole. It begins when Jill Lawton approaches Hope, an attorney in Calusa, Fla., for help in finding her missing husband, Jack, whom she intends to divorce. That night, a body carrying Jack's identification turns up shot in the face and dead. It's not Jack Lawton's body, however, but that of Ernest Corrington, a burglar and would-be actor who was the third corner in a love triangle with Jack and a woman who goes by two names, Melanie and Holly. Jack and she have also comprised an erotic triangle with Jill. What binds these people together (besides the sexual geometry) is a plan to steal the Hemlock Cup from a local museum. The cup, the stuff of legends, is reputedly the very cup from which Socrates drank his poison. Jack, Jill, Holly/Melanie and Corrington hatch intricate plots to steal the cup--and to eliminate each other from collecting any part of the payment being offered by a Greek collector. Trying to trace Jack, Hope gets in touch with Detective Steve Carella of the 87th Precinct ""up north."" Their collaboration is complicated by dead bodies and yet another boyfriend of Holly/Melanie's. Sound tangled? It is, but with McBain's skilled handling, it's crystal clear and an absolute delight. (Mar.)