VESPERS (1990) ***
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Mandarin, 1991, 331pp
First published in 1990
© Hui Corporation, 1990
Blurb: There are a lot of unspeakable things that happen in the big city, and the murder of St. Catherine’s Father Birney is one of them. For Detectives Carella and Hawes of the 87th Precinct, finding the killer means taking a journey into the darkest corners of the city’s soul. The satanic cult near St. Catherine’s parish is the obvious first suspect–but not necessarily the right one. As the detectives investigate the priest’s life, they uncover blackmail, old grudges, and hidden motives. When everyone has a secret and the truth hides within the lies, Carella and Hawes must rely on their premier detective work to find the killer.
Comment: The 42nd book in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series is one of his least successful in that it feels excessively bloated to fill out a page-length quota despite it mixing two unrelated plots. the primary plot concerns the murder of a catholic priest in a neighbourhood where a satanic religious cult is in operation nearby. A number of red herrings come into the mix before the mystery is solved by Carella in what feels like a somewhat underwhelming way. McBain laces the book with heavy doses of sex, via rituals performed at the satanic church which only serve to add a seedy spice to the story. The secondary plot concerns Detective Willis’ girlfriend Marilyn Hollis, introduced in 1987’s Poison, whose past is catching up with her. This plot plays out in typical thriller fashion leading to a shattering conclusion. As he weaves between the two plots McBain seems to employ an increased level of padding by adding sections which add little to the advancement of the plot. Fortunately, McBain has not lost his gift for dialogue and characterisation and whilst this may be one of his lesser efforts, it still has enough for the reader to keep turning the pages.
VESPERS (1990) ***