"With a series as long-running as this one (since 1956), coming up with something fresh would seem pretty much impossible. But McBain shows why he is a master."  

BYLINE: By Kathleen Hennrikus, Globe Staff

Tom Fontana, who wrote the TV show "Homicide," and
David Milch of "NYPD Blue" fame should thank
whatever they consider their greater power for Ed
McBain, godfather of the modern police detective
series. In "Hark!" - the 54th installment of his 87th
Precinct series - the wacky, roundabout arguments, the
rampant sexism, and other foibles of a detective squad
are all here.McBain's setting is New York City, a place
he has a lover's affection for but views with frightening
clarity. All the old characters are here, from Steve
Carella to Meyer Meyer to Detective Bob O'Brien, the
hard-luck cop. (Just standing next to O'Brien, Carella
wonders if a bullet would come smashing through a

In this volume, the bad guy is a return villain, and it's the
fourth time the Deaf Man has tormented the precinct. It's
not clear how deaf the Deaf Man is; he does wear a
hearing aid. He has a special affection for Carella,
which might be because he once shot him, or maybe
because Carella's wife is profoundly deaf. He taunts
the station house with notes addressed to Carella,
sometimes at the rate of three per day. The squad
figures out pretty quickly that the notes are from the
Deaf Man, but what is he saying? Most are quotes from
Shakespeare, but some notes are anagrams and
others are palindromes.

The Deaf Man (who in this book goes by the anagram
Adam Fen) has a young hooker helping him. She hits
upon the idea of paying junkies to deliver the notes to
the 87th Precinct because there are lots of them in the
city, and most would sell their mothers for a fix. The
messengers are a minor parade of vividly sketched
characters, invariably young prostitutes, figuring the
money they get from delivering a note is cash more
easily earned than the usual way. McBain points out
that it's not illegal to be a junkie, so the messengers
aren't arrested, but it is a crime to possess drugs. Go
figure, as Meyer Meyer might say.

There's always a nice mix of minor cases, personal
issues, and social concerns in the McBain books, and
this one is no exception. His characters age throughout
the series and in fiction, as in life, the past influences
the present.

Carella's mother and sister are getting married in a
double ceremony, which Carella can ill afford but
insists on paying for. (Pride is his burden.) His sister is
marrying the district attorney who was unable to convict
their father's killer, and not only is his mother marrying
an Italian, she's moving to Italy with him.

Cotton Hawes is still in the first blush of dating Honey
Blair, the Channel 4 news gal, enjoying the whispered
phone calls, the heavy breathing, the covert glances.
When he gets shot in the foot, what upsets him the
most is that it was in broad daylight, and he's a cop. As
a matter of pride, he has to discover who his shooter is.

Another member of the squad is a white cop dating an
African-American doctor. They have been together for a
while, and everything seems fine. But then the cop get
jealous; he follows his girlfriend and sees her meeting
a colleague, another African-American doctor. He
wonders if it's just him, or whether blacks and whites
will ever see each other outside of the prism of race.

Some cases take up a couple of paragraphs. A baby
lies strangled in its crib. The mother says the father did
it before he left for work; the father says the mother is
responsible. One cop sides with the mother, the other
with the father. We never hear about the case again.

Finally, the squad starts breaking some of the codes in
the notes. It's clear the Deaf Man delights in confusion,
and the notes allude to weapons going from larger to
smaller. Spears and swords and darts - perhaps a
twist on an anagram? Other times, the notes are pure
palindromes, such as "Look, sire, paper is kool!" At
least one of the detectives observes he spells kool

It takes a deft touch to mix horror scenes of police work
with the banter of kicking back and brainstorming what
the bad guy is going to do, but it's one reason McBain is
called a master. Besides, who else could write a book
with a deaf villain with a title that means to listen

The Houston Chronicle

August 01, 2004, Sunday 2 STAR EDITION


LENGTH: 1197 words

HEADLINE: M is for good summer mysteries

BYLINE: AMY RABINOVITZ; Amy Rabinovitz is a reviewer
in San Jose, Calif.

IN sue Grafton's R Is for Ricochet (Putnam/Marian
Wood Book, 352 pp. $ 26.95), the "ricochet" brings to
mind not the skewed path of a bullet but the old song
about ricochet romance......

There is, among some, "the futile belief that the
successful pursuit of wealth and power can transform
avarice into virtue." James Lee Burke uses his
considerable power as a storyteller to show their folly in
his latest novel, In the Moon of Red Ponies (Simon &
Schuster, 322 pp. $ 24.95).....

The Deaf Man is back (shame on you if you thought he
was really dead), and most of the detectives are having
romantic problems in Ed McBain's latest 87th precinct
novel, Hark! (Simon & Schuster, 293 pp. $ 24.95).

If all that makes sense to you, there's a good chance
you'll enjoy the book, with its smooth prose and
interwoven plot. Otherwise, reading Hark! is like
reading a Christmas letter from someone you don't

The story opens with the Deaf Man killing a woman who
betrayed him. He taunts the detectives with a series of
notes. He warms them up by sending anagrams, then
moves on to Shakespearean quotes. We know he's up
to something, but exactly what remains a mystery.

In the meantime, the detectives are consumed with
their personal problems. Carella frets over the
upcoming weddings of his mother and sister. Kling is
consumed with jealousy when his surgeon-girlfriend
starts seeing her ex. Cotton Hawes is twice the target of
a sniper, but his TV anchorwoman-girlfriend is the one
crying wolf. Ollie mopes over his pathetic state of being
but discovers he has a real future as a novelist.

With a series as long-running as this one (since 1956),
coming up with something fresh would seem pretty
much impossible. But McBain shows why he is a
master. He makes another visit with the detectives of
New York's 87th precinct worth it.


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