1/12/2005 
NYTBR on ALICE 
"Without making light of Alice's distress, McBain takes nasty delight in turning the crisis into a three-ring circus, with competitive teams of clumsy police detectives, arrogant F.B.I. agents and a clueless sheriff running parallel investigations and botching them through bad luck and sheer ineptitude." CLICK TO READ THE FULL REVIEW. 
                       NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
                            January 9, 2005 Sunday
                              Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section 7; Column 1; Book Review Desk;
CRIME; Pg. 17

LENGTH: 1039 words

HEADLINE: Girl Power

BYLINE: By Marilyn Stasio

BODY:

The cops at the 87th Precinct would bust a gut over
the Keystone incompetence of the police force in Cape
October, the placid community in southwestern
Florida where Ed McBain has set ALICE IN JEOPARDY
(Simon & Schuster, $25), a suspense thriller with a foxy
sense of humor that takes a while to register.

It is entirely lost, for good reason, on Alice Glendenning,
a 34-year-old widow who has been having a hard time
of it since her husband was lost at sea eight months
earlier in a boating accident. The insurance company is
hedging on paying out on the double-indemnity policy,
and although Alice has found a job with a real
estate firm, she has yet to make her first sale. On the
same day that one promising prospect falls through,
poor Alice is clipped by a ditzy blonde in a
red Thunderbird convertible and breaks her ankle.
Then, someone kidnaps her children.

Not laughing yet? Neither is Alice, who is contacted by
the two women who snatched Ashley, 10, and Jamie, 8,
outside their school and are now demanding $250,000
in ransom -- the exact amount of the insurance
settlement. (And no running to the law, either, if she
wants to see her children alive.) While Alice's head is
still spinning, her meddling housekeeper tips off the
local cops, the F.B.I. and a newspaper reporter. And
that's when the fun begins.

Without making light of Alice's distress, McBain takes
nasty delight in turning the crisis into a three-ring
circus, with competitive teams of clumsy police
detectives, arrogant F.B.I. agents and a clueless sheriff
running parallel investigations and botching them
through bad luck and sheer ineptitude. ''He's really
trying to figure this out,'' Alice acknowledges of
Detective Wilbur Sloate, who comes up with a plan to
pay the ransom with counterfeit bills. ''But he seems so
very damn stupid.''

''Stupid'' doesn't do justice to other characters who
contribute their own goofy ideas (and manic voices) to
the escalating chaos. Although McBain is attentive to all
these clowns, he is especially solicitous of Alice's  
ex-con brother-in-law, a long-distance trucker
improbably named Rafe, who drops by, parks his rig
and decides to get in on the action by stealing the
bogus bills from the kidnappers. The hilarious scene at
a roadside diner in which Rafe tries to recruit two
trucker pals for his scheme is pure McBain -- a choice
sample of his taste for the rude conversation of rough
men. ''I eat beef, pork, maybe once a month, twice if I
wanna live real dangerously'' is how one trucker
explains his dissatisfaction with his meal. ''So when I
order pork chops, I don't expect to get burnt shoe
leather. I mean, this is a treat for me, eating pork.''

That's the way this tricky plot turns, on the small,
unexpected details that can ruin the clever plans of
devious men. (The pork chops are overdone. The
leopard-print thong proves a distraction. The garbage
truck pulls out at the wrong moment.) But the crime is
ultimately solved by a couple of women who grow
sick and tired of the silly games men play and take the
initiative themselves.

For all its humor and despite the fair play of its plotting,
the story has absolutely no use for the conventional
heroes of genre fiction, including those dedicated cops
who come to the aid of women in jeopardy in McBain's
own police procedurals. Something has broken down
here, and while you'll excuse us for laughing, it isn't
entirely funny.

 

 
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