TRICKS (1987) ***½
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Pan Books, 1988, 247pp
First published in 1987
© Hui Corporation, 1987
Blurb: One night. One shift. No rest. Featuring the 87th Precinct’s entire cast of characters, this Halloween takes them into the darkest corners of depravity the city has to offer. And sometimes, surviving is the greatest treat of them all. From a liquor store hold-up ending with a dead owner and four costumed “kids” making off with the money to the pieces of a man showing up around the city, the Day of the Dead is turning the streets into a carnival of violence and murder. Meanwhile, a magician disappears in a stunning final act, and Detective First Class Eileen Burke poses as a hooker to lure in a serial killer. The question is, will the detectives all live to see the dawn of November?
Comment: The 40th of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels is one of the more bizarre of the series, which juggles three central plots on Halloween night and utilises the majority of the 87th Precinct team of detectives. The theme is noted in the title and like in ICE McBain plays with variations of meaning. So tricks are those played by a group of Halloween “kids” holding up liquor stores; those served out by prostitutes being targeted by a serial killer; and the magic tricks of a magician whose last act is to go missing. Carella and Meyer are sidelined when they are both shot at a liquor store stakeout; we get to find out more about slob detective Andy Parker’s private life; Genero becomes an unwitting hero; and Kling’s over-protectiveness toward Eileen Burke (harkening back to LIGHTNING) threatens her latest assignment to trap the serial killer. The juggling of each of these plots, in fairly even weighting, means none in isolation feels beefy enough to be wholly satisfying but interlinked there is still much to keep the reader involved. As a whole, the book, therefore, proves to be more of a compendium of interwoven stories than a novel. Where the book does score strongly is in McBain’s skill at character invention and dialogue, which are as colourful and witty as ever.
TRICKS (1987) ***½