Fiddlers: A Novel of the 87th Precinct Hardcover – Sep 12 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
MWA Grand Master McBain's 55th 87th Precinct police procedural suffers by comparison with 2004's Hark! as well as other top books in this iconic series, but still has plenty of good moments. A killer living the high life is exacting the last full measure of revenge. As his victims pile up, the 87th falls prey to the FMU or "first man up" rule. Since the initial victim, a blind violinist shot in the face, was done on the 87th's turf, all subsequent murders are theirs as well. More are not long in arriving; each victim shot in the face at close range with the same 9mm Glock. The whole cast of the 87th is stretched thin trying to track down clues in geographically disparate killings. This gives McBain license to update us on such matters as the romance between Bert Kling and Sharyn Cooke and Fat Ollie Weeks's courtship of Patricia Gomez. All are searching for the one lead that will pan out gold. While McBain siphons off some suspense by making the reader privy to the killer's actions, and his trademark dialogue isn't as crisp as usual, he still delivers dependable entertainment.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A blind violinist is shot in the alley behind the restaurant where he works. A sales rep is gunned down in her apartment while cooking dinner. They are both killed with the same gun. Detective Steve Carella and his 87th Precinct team investigate. The case grows more confusing when an elderly priest and an old woman walking her dog are also murdered with the same gun. The killer, a seemingly ordinary man, is on a last fling with a call girl, who doesn't understand the darkness residing within the man she hopes will pull her out of the life. McBain has written more than 100 novels and earned more awards than can be cataloged in a brief review. His 87th Precinct novels remain the benchmark for both police procedurals and crime series fiction. Here he offers a proposition: with one's own end in sight, would there be any satisfaction in exacting revenge on those who forced your life off course? Say a teacher who gave you a C when a B would have kept you safe from Vietnam? McBain asks the question and--in making the killer something less than a monster--provides a provocatively open-ended answer. McBain just keeps getting better and better. This one will have readers waking in the middle of the night wondering if they, too, have killers inside themselves. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
No other writer has been as consistently good for as long as McBain, who started this series in 1956. Admittedly, I did not like the 87th Precinct novels at first, but I became hooked when I bought a three-for-one anthology at a booksale. Police procedurals stress plot over characterization and it took me that long to get to know Steve Carella, Meyer Meyer, Cotton Hawes, Burt Kling and the rest.
McBain is a master at weaving together subplots, and FIDDLERS is no different. The detectives of the 87th are on the trail of a serial killer who seems to be targeting senior citizens: a blind violinist, a cosmetics sales rep, a college professor, a priest, and an old woman out walking her dog. We also get a brief look at Carella's personal life as his thirteen-year-old Twins are growing up. There's also some social commentary as Burt Kling deals with his bi-racial relationship. The novel ends with a hook, pointing toward the next in the series: Fat Ollie's love affair with Patricia Gomez seems headed for trouble as he turns to Andy Parker, of all people, for advice.
I have a feeling McBain was working right down to the end, as he often completed two novels a year, as McBain and his alter ego Evan Hunter. But if there are no further Precinct novels, I plan to start all over with COP HATER and THE MUGGER if I can find them. Although McBain always kept some 50s elements in his newer work, it'll be fun to compare the early work with his modern stuff.
God speed, Salvatore!
If this is indeed the final 87th Precinct novel, then it was a fine note on which to end the symphony.
However, Ed McBain's tragic death deprives us of resolution, and I expect something in the man delighted in this, for he had a pretty good opinion of himself and, much like you and I, considered himself one of the great American novelists. Irreplaceable. I for one don't want any V C Andrews scam occurring to the 87th Precinct series. We loved him for his writing pure and simple.
FIDDLERS is pretty good and it's miles better than that wretched book where Ollie Weeks was writing a novel, remember that? Its lame parody of bad writing, presented in standard 87th Precinct facsimile form? Yikes was that awful. This one is much better, and although the actial revenge plot borrows quite a bit from Cornell Woolrich's two 1940s thrillers THE BRIDE WORE BLACK and RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK, the addition of the red-headed prostitute, Reggie, turns the human interest up a notch, so we become interested in the unlikely pairing of serial killer and call girl.
Why "FIDDLERS" though? OK, the first victim played the violin. Maybe there's some larger, overarching metaphor here. Funny thing that FIDDLERS should be Ed McBain's last book, while FIDDLERS THREE was the last play that Agatha Christie wrote. Nothing but a coincidence, but I'm just saying.
The detectives take to the streets, hitting night clubs, raves, any and all venues with the potential for shifting quantities of illegal drugs. The trail leads one way, then another, but they can get no fix on the motive for the killings. Meanwhile the murderer keeps busy, dropping new bodies while the cops are mid-stride chasing the last one. As the chapters alternate the crimes and private glimpses into the daily lives of the men who work the 87th, a pattern slowly emerges; it doesn't fit any previously known serial killer, but eventually an identity emerges, a man with a vengeance.
Even in the midst of these heinous crimes, the author inserts humorous asides, usually relating to the detectives' personal problems, humanizing the men who deal with everyday violence, a mix of crime and the mundane details that make up police life. McBain sprinkles the pages with eccentric characters, dope dealers, students, ex-husbands, all with pitch-perfect dialog that feels like eavesdropping on a private conversation. The 87th does their footwork by the book, gradually narrowing their suspects. This particular murderer plots his revenge for a painful past, a revenge he prefers served cold. But that's the thing with resentments...they'll kill you. Luan Gaines/2005.
McBain was unbelievably prolific and successful--over 100 million books sold. You would think that a writer with such popularity must be writing lightweight, low common denominator trash. You would be wrong.
McBain knew how to write. He knew character, dialog, and plot as well as any novelist--and better than most.
I teach literature and writing at a Florida university. My comrades in the department are busy writing poetry and exploring obscure "literary" writers. I doubt if many of them have ever read McBain--too lowbrow. Too bad for them.
Good literature involves the reader personally because he or she cares about the characters and what happens to them. Good literature provokes insight and analysis because of the moral and ethical issues that are presented. Good literature appeals to our sense of humanity.
McBain never failed to do that in all his years of writing. I'm going to miss Steve Carella, Matthew Hope, and all of the other great McBain characters. They were real people--good people that we cared about (except for maybe Fat Ollie--but I'm even going to miss him!).