three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
19-Nov-Dec-2005
By: 
Ed McBain
user_rating: 
0

A Novel of the 87th Precinct

A-FiddlersIn only two weeks, a single gun kills five seemingly random victims—a blind violinist, a cosmetics sales rep, a priest, a college professor, and an old woman walking her dog. It’s up to Steve Carella and his colleagues to find the killer and unearth the connections between the victims before another innocent person dies. Each was over the age of 50, but besides that, Carella perceives no obvious links. Only the killer—an outwardly normal man who’s enjoying a fling with a call girl and who’s out to exact revenge from those who "fiddled" with his life’s plans—knows.
Harcourt. 272 pages. $25. ISBN: 0151012164

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"McBain dissects police procedures with the precision of a brain surgeon. . . . Even the briefest passing character comes across with a living, breathing individuality that fairly jumps off the page." Robert Croan

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There is an elegant symmetry to McBain’s last dance . . . whose tightly choreographed criminal investigations do indeed follow a musical structure. . . . The most endearing quality about McBain’s detectives has always been their ability to uncover the ugliness in human nature without turning ugly themselves." Marilyn Stasio

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[McBain] went out at the top of his game with . . . Fiddlers." Adam Woog

St. Petersburg Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The question all the detectives want to ask the killer is, ‘Why now?’ The answer is as ironic as the life of the author who wrote it. And amazingly satisfying." Jean Heller

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[McBain’s] Everycop, Detective Steve Carella, is a decent, hardworking family man, a team player, never as colorful or angst-ridden as, say, Connelly’s Bosch or John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport, but closer to the reality of police work than any other fictional cop. . . . Probably [McBain] knew that Fiddlers would be his last novel and set out to say some goodbyes—much as the serial killer in the novel is . . . wrapping up loose ends with a 9mm Glock." Patrick Anderson

Critical Summary

Over his lifetime, McBain wrote more than 100 novels, short stories, and screenplays. In these works, he helped define the police procedural genre with his gritty urban realism and flesh-and-blood characters. Critics agree that Fiddlers, his last work (McBain died this past July), is a fitting end to his long career—and a rewarding, if not perfect, cap to his 87th Precinct books. Readers familiar with this series will find the usual endearing characters and settings—Carella, his hearing-impaired wife, and their adolescent twins, and the fictional New York City metropolis of Isola. In a new twist, McBain examines the perspective of the killer, a tactic that sheds light on the latter’s murderous motives but diminishes suspense. All told, "McBain was a master, and his tales of the city are timeless" (Washington Post).