cover image The House That Jack Built

The House That Jack Built

Ed McBain. Henry Holt & Company, $16.45 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-0787-9

As always, McBain's ear-perfect dialogue and stinging wit invigorate his story, eighth in the series of takeoffs on classic nursery fare. Lawyer Matthew Hope of Calusa, Fla., stars again as an amateur sleuth searching for evidence to exonerate a client. This time the accused is a visitor from the Midwest, Ralph Parrish, charged with murdering his gay brother, Jonathan, after a wild party at a Florida beach house. Although unhappy over Jonathan's debauchery and sexual orientation, Ralph loved his brother, and Hope believes in his client's innocence. Setting out on a serpentine path, the lawyer comes into the presence of people with secrets he can't pry loose: a priest at the church near Jonathan's house, a pair of married homosexuals, Arthur Hurley and Bill Walker, and their traveling companion, young, pregnant Helen Abbott. At the last turn in the road, Hope meets elderly Sophie Brechtmann and her daughter, Elise, owners of the famous Brechtmann Brewery, where the investigator learns how to make beer (and so does the reader) in the episode that ends a tale as spellbinding as McBain's Goldilocks, Puss in Boots and his other bestsellers. (July)