cover image Candyland


Evan Hunter. Simon & Schuster, $25 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-1316-5

Hunter (The Blackboard Jungle; etc.) and McBain (the 87th Precinct novels) are the same man, of course, although all the evidence in this superb crime novel, other than a brief confession tucked within the jacket copy, says otherwise. The photo on the back of the jacket, for instance, depicts two men standing togetherDHunter in a dark suit and McBain in more casual jeans, sunglasses and cap. Most notably, the writing styles employed in the novel's first part, ""The Rain May Never Fall Till After Sundown..."" by Hunter, and in the (equally long) second part, McBain's ""By Eight, the Morning Fog Must Disappear..."" are as alike as sauerkraut and cookies. The first is a cuttingly incisive character study of L.A. architect Ben Thorpe, married and in his late 40s. He spends his final night of a Manhattan business trip drinking and frantically chasing womenDa pickup in a bar, an old girlfriend for phone sex and finally two prostitutes in a brothel, where Thorpe insults a third whore and is beaten by the bouncer, only to be rescued by a kindly streetwalker who takes him to her home. The pages flow with the speed and intense detail of a fever dream as Hunter captures the insatiable drive and lavish self-excusing of the sex addict. The section closes with Ben standing in late-night Manhattan rain, then leaps ahead to the next day and McBain's world of Special Victims detective Emma Boyle and her fellow cops, assigned to the murder of a prostituteDthe one whom Thorpe insulted. Fashioned in tougher, more clipped, yet just as insightful prose as what came before, this material digs deep into the damaged private lives of the cops even as they hunt the killerDwho may be ThorpeDas doggedly as Thorpe pursues women. Each part of the novel works beautifully alone but also in tandem, adding up to a multifaceted, psychologically astute portrait of crime and punishment that has ""Edgar nominee"" written all over it. Agent, Jane Gelfman. (Jan.)