cover image Mischief


Ed McBain. Pocket Books, $20 (346pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10221-0

Since his 1956 Cop Hater , McBain has regaled us with his 87th Precinct novels ( Kiss , 1992) and with this, the 55th in the series, he proves again that he is the Grand Master of procedurals. The plot's main threads follow the serial murders of graffiti-writers, a rash of ``granny-dumping'' (abandonment of old people, usually senile) and the return of the Deaf Man, a master criminal who taunts the 87th detectives with advance clues to his schemes. Vivid glimpses of life in Isola (read Manhattan) are matched by brilliantly drawn characters: young rappers, the abandoned oldsters, the relatives of the murder victims, the Deaf Man and his accomplices, and the old familiars of the 87th. McBain also delivers creditable rap and calypso lyrics, a cram course in plea-bargaining and a heartbreaking conversation between a detective and the wife of an Alzheimer's sufferer. Eventually the cops prevail, but not until the Deaf Man has orchestrated a huge, deadly diversion from his clever scam, after which the master criminal puts another one over on the 87th. Or does he? Doesn't he? McBain, really Evan Hunter, is a virtuoso of the genre. Author tour. (Aug.)