Blood Relatives Hardcover – Large Print, May 2002
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About the Author
Ed McBain was one of the pen names of successful and prolific crime fiction author Evan Hunter (1926 – 2005). Debuting in 1956, the popular 87th Precinct is one of the longest running crime series ever published, featuring over fifty novels, and is hailed as “one of the great literary accomplishments of the last half-century.” McBain was awarded the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement in 1986 by the Mystery Writers of America and was the first American to receive the Cartier Diamond Dagger award from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Seventeen-year-old Muriel Stark is slashed to death in the hallway of an abandoned tenement, her murder witnessed by her cousin Patricia. But Patricia's story gets more complicated, and the 87th Precinct detectives find themselves hunting up several different alleys to solve the crime.
At his best, McBain produced not mysteries or simple story yarns but colorful and diversely-patterned mosaics, where, as in real life, varied and disconnected elements of city life came together in the course of a routine investigation never anything close to routine. A drunk who slaps his wife around, a hobo who imagines himself king of the city and visits junkyards to examine his tribute, an amiable bank manager who shares his name with a radio-age superhero are all elements meaningless in isolation that come alive as the stuff of life and death in McBain's hands.
Police work, too, is described in a way both authentic and entertaining, like when he steps away from the story for a moment to note the peril of policemen trying to ape Baretta. "Television cops were dangerous. They made real cops feel like heroes instead of hard-working slobs."
McBain's doesn't let you forget about the central crime or sundry other atrocities the detectives of the 87th must deal with. He just delivers in such a way that you get used to it all the way they do, "keeping the old aspidistra flying" as he puts it and making you feel a part of their strange brotherhood. There's more than the usual amount of police business in this police procedural, with McBain explaining the rules of homicide investigation (if a case isn't solved in the first 24 hours, it is as likely to be solved by chance as by detection thereafter) and why you can't smoke at a crime scene, even in 1975.
The mystery itself is one of McBain's better ones, too, one that keeps you guessing as you read though not thinking much about it after. I could have done without the device of a diary that gives away many of the secrets. I'd rather have had 50 more pages of sleuthing. Alas, he wasn't yet writing 400-page installments of the 87th series, though this has more story than some of those later volumes.
"Blood Relatives" is overall a solid, worthy effort that presages many of his great 87th Precinct novels of the 1980s, with its singular vitality and depth. Read this, and you will come back for more.
Patricia fingers a cop in the line-up who was nowhere near the crime scene. This leads to the revelation that she's lying, which in turns leads to her finally telling the truth, naming her brother as her attacker and the killer of her pretty cousin Muriel. Carella can't shake the feeling the reader also has that nothing is quite as it seems, and there is an artificiality to Patricia Lowrey's new story.
This one delves more into the gritty underbelly of extended families and love both requited and unrequited than the mean streets of Isola, yet has that same nourish feel to it for which the series is famous. When Muriel's diary falls into the lap of Carella by sheer happenstance, a sad and twisted story leads him to the killer. The passages in the diary is some terrific writing by McBain, adding poignancy to the story by humanizing Muriel, something you don't always get in a police procedural, which is naturally more about catching the killer than it is the victim's life.
Rather than character development in each book, the reader comes to know Carella and the other cops of the 87th Precinct over the course of time in these police procedurals. This one ends as it began, in the rain, as Carella walks away. Blood Relatives is a terrific entry in the series. There is a bit of a lag in the middle, but a huge and poignant payoff for readers at the end. Great stuff.
The younger girl is able to give the detectives a fairly detailed description of the man she says attacked them, and the detectives' first step is to interview known sex offenders. They find one who closely matches the description the girl has given them and the guy has the world's worst alibi for the time of the attack. But when the young girl looks at a lineup, instead of identifying the known perv, she mistakenly picks out a detective.
Her mistake totally destroys the girl's value as an eyewitness and so Steve Carella and the other detectives on the case are forced to fall back on other, much more pain-staking and difficult methods in their attempt to capture the guilty party. There's more than the usual amount of police procedure in this book, and it's fascinating to watch the way in which the detectives would work a case like this--or at least the way they would have worked it forty years ago, before the advent of DNA testing and other more modern investigatory tools.
It's a very entertaining book that takes a number of totally unexpected twists and turns, one that's sure to appeal to any fan of the series and to most readers who enjoy crime fiction.