Thursday, January 25, 2007

Just Read: "The Gutter and the Grave" by Ed McBain

Just Read: The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain, 2005 (1958 original), 0843955872.

Very Good. That McBain was a heck of a good writer. Gutter does not get really interesting until about 75 pages into the story when the lead character, Matt Cordell, finds out how much he has been lied to. Cordell dropped out of life five years previous after he pistol whipped the guy Cordell's wife was in bed with. The resulting publicity ruined Cordell's detective agency and the pain of his wife's betrayal turned him into a full-time drunk.

Cordell is sitting on a Manhattan park bench thinking of booze when an old neighborhood friend finds him. Johnny, the friend, asks Cordell to look into some cash register thefts at his tailoring business. Cordell is shamed into the favor and he and Johnny walk onto a murder scene at Johnny's shop. To keep himself out of more police trouble Cordell promises Johnny he will investigate the killing as long as Johnny keeps Cordell's name out of it.

Cordell has two or three girls throw themselves at him, gets in trouble with the cops, runs into an old adversary and is simultaneously beaten with a lead pipe and a blackjack. Many lies are told and, even though you can quickly figure out who the murderer is, McBain does a good job twisting around suspects and plot. Mcbain has some wonderfully descriptive writing in this one.

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