MISCHIEF (1993) ***
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Coronet, 1993, 309pp
First published in 1993
© Hui Corporation, 1993
Blurb: A punk wielding a spray can is no match for a killer armed with a gun — and a deadly aim to knock off the city’s graffiti artists. One by one, the young scribblers are found murdered, maliciously coated with paint and blood. Detective Steve Carella can’t see the writing on the wall — yet. Meanwhile, the Deaf Man, the 87th Precinct’s longtime tormentor, is leading its cops, clue by maddening clue, to uncover a heinous crime that will make the graffiti killer look like an amateur. It’s all primed to go down at a raucous rock and rap concert — but who’s going to take the rap?
Comment: The 45th book in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series sees the return of the Deaf Man in a book that again juggles a number of plot strands. By now, McBain has found a way for his books to expand to their new page count requirement (circa 300 pages compared to nearly half that in the earlier books), but the results remain hit-and-miss. Alongside the latest Deaf Man scheme, being investigated by Carella and Brown, we see Parker and Kling looking into a series of murders of graffiti artists whilst Meyer and Hawes look into the dumping of confused old people outside a hospital. McBain also advances things in Kling’s personal life by introducing a potential new love interest in police surgeon Sharyn Cooke, who he meets via his former partner Eileen Burke, who is finding her feet in the hostage team but is traumatised by the death of a colleague during a negotiation. Each of the mystery plot elements are a little underdeveloped as they compete for space, but they do run through to a satisfying conclusion. The Deaf Man’s scheme, involving inciting racial violence at an open-air music festival as a diversion for a heist of narcotics due to be destroyed by the police, receives an unexpected twist but surprisingly does not take centre stage. The result is a mixed bag that feels like three first-drafts for separate books rolled into one, but there are some great individual scenes, brimming with McBain’s wonderful dialogue.
MISCHIEF (1993) ***