WIDOWS (1991) ****
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Mandarin, 1992, 309pp
First published in 1991
© Hui Corporation, 1991
Blurb: The beautiful blonde in the penthouse apartment was dead, her face and body laced with slashes from a paring knife — grisly evidence of the terrible things the city can do to pretty young women. What sordid web of money, sex, and greed had ensnared Susan Brauer? The stack of unsigned erotic letters in her possession was the first clue. Then the murder of Susan’s lover, a married lawyer in his sixties, leads the cops of the 87th to the women left behind: the lawyer’s wife, his ex, his daughters. And for Detective Carella, his own father’s senseless death in a bakery holdup sears through the intense summer heat — and sends him on a fevered hunt for the one who made his mother a widow and shrouded his family in grief.
Comment: The 43rd book in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series sees the author back near the top of his game after the rambling VESPERS. Here, again, McBain juggles three plot elements – but this time each of these elements is fully engaging and two of them dovetail together for a tense finale. The major plot surrounds a sequence of murders centred around an unfaithful lawyer. This is archetypal McBain and maximises his mastery of the procedural format. The second plot element relates to the murder of Steve Carella’s father in a bakery robbery and the aftermath of the investigation leading to a hostage scenario in the book’s finale. This is where the plot dovetails with the third element where we pick up with the lives of detectives Eileen Burke and Bert Kling. Eileen is now a trainee hostage negotiator, having finally come to terms with the events of her horrendous experiences as a police decoy. Eilen is the chief negotiator with the killers of Carella’s father in the tensely written 41-page closing chapter. There is also a domestic subplot involving Carella’s brother-in-law, whom Carella’s pregnant sister believes is having an affair. McBain expertly interweaves these scenarios, seasoning them with strong characters and excellent dialogue. The result is one of the best of his later novels.
WIDOWS (1991) ****