Book Review – THE EMPTY HOURS (1962) by Ed McBain

THE EMPTY HOURS (1962) ***
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Pan, 1981, 192pp
First published in 1962
© Ed McBain, 1962
ISBN: 9780-330-26279-3
Blurb: THE EMPTY HOURSShe was young, wealthy – and dead. Strangled to death in a slum apartment. All they had to go on was her name and some cancelled cheques. As Steve Carella said, ‘Those cheques are the diary of her life. We’ll find the answer there.’ But how was he to know that they would reveal something much stranger than murder? J: On Passover, the rabbi bled to death. Someone had brutally stabbed him and painted a J on the synagogue wall. Everyone knew who the killer was – it had to be Finch, the Jew-hater. Or did it…? STORM: The snow was pure white except where Cotton Hawes stared down at the bright red pool of blood spreading away from the dead girl’s body. Hawes was supposed to be on a skiing holiday, but he couldn’t just stand by and watch the local cops make a mess of the case. He had to catch the ski-slope slayer before he killed again.
Comment: The fifteenth of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct books collected three novellas written between 1960 and 1962. During this period a TV series had been developed by Hubbell Robinson Productions for NBC, which ran for 30 episodes from 25 September 1961 to 30 April 1962 (a pilot had been broadcast as part of the Kraft Television Theatre series on 25 June 1958). The series adapted some of McBain’s novels, as well as his novella The Empty Hours (originally published in Ed McBain’s Mystery Book), and also contained new material from the author as well as other writers.  J and Storm, the two other stories used here, however, were not adapted. Copyright lists The Empty Hours and Storm as 1960 and J as 1961. The Empty Hours and J follow the traditional 87th Precinct procedural approach to solving the crime within the city. Storm re-locates to a ski resort, where Detective Cotton Hawes is holidaying with his girlfriend, but otherwise, this remains familiar in structure. The mysteries are short, running to between 56 and 66 pages, and therefore not too convoluted, but still manage to generate a twist or two. They remain entertaining, if less demanding, reads.