HEAT (1981) ****
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Pan Books, 1983, 204pp
First published in 1981
© Hui Corporation, 1981
Blurb: In the middle of a stifling heat wave, why would an artist intent on committing suicide turn his air conditioning off before taking his life? That’s the question troubling Detectives Steve Carella and Bert Kling until more personal―and deadly―questions threaten to tear Kling’s life apart. Certain his wife, Augusta, is cheating on him, Kling sets out on a course from which there is no turning back. Meanwhile, a dangerous killer from his past begins a similar path destined to end in retribution. As Carella’s case of the mysterious suicide unravels, Kling’s personal life explodes in pain and violence.
Comment: The 35th book in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series sees the author playing to his considerable strengths. Three plots are interwoven, with two of them linked in that they involve Detective Bert Kling. The main plot, in which Detective Steve Carella investigates an apparent suicide with a number of unanswered questions leads him to consider a more sinister scenario. This is played out in the straightforward procedural format McBain had established from book 1. Alongside this, we have Kling using his detective skills to expose his wife’s infidelity, whilst he himself is being tailed by an ex-con with a taste for revenge. The Kling/Augusta storyline continues McBain’s increasing domestic angle to his books to fill out a required higher page count. Kling’s run of misfortune has been a frequent interlude for the series and here McBain puts his young detective through the wringer once more. McBain uses the framework very effectively and the reader is taken along on Kling’s emotional rollercoaster ride as he pieces together his wife’s affair. The book is also peppered with McBain’s trademark slick dialogue and doses of humour, which lend the detectives a human quality sometimes lacking in the genre. After a couple of more experimental books, here McBain shows the way forward for the series in a changing market where readers were becoming more demanding.
HEAT (1981) ****