Fiddlin’ around, fiddlin’ around

Ed McBain died in July, but “Fiddlers”, the 55th book in his series about the detectives of the 87th Preceint, doesn’t seem so much like a send-off as a continuation.

A series of killings all tied to the same gun indicate that a serial killer is on the loose in Isola, McBain’s reimagined New York City, but this one is not playing by the rules. The majority of them prey on women and go for weeks, even months, between killings. This one is different. The victims include a blind violinist is shot outside the restaurant where he works, a woman killed while cooking an omelet in her apartment, a cosmetic sales rep on her way home from work, an elderly Catholic priest. All shot with the same Glock and all over the age of 50. What is the connection?

It was 49 years ago, with the publication of “Cop Hater,” that McBain turned the police procedural into a multi-facted, multiple viewpoint story that took the reader beyond the case and into the private lives of the officers. With the 87th acting as the stage, we followed the officers as they worked and talked and argued, grew older, fell into and out of relationships, moved on to other things and even retired. The passage of time was reflected also in the changes seen in the city, giving the earlier novels the feel of walking into a time machine.

Given McBain’s declining health, it’s surprising that “Fiddlers” is as good as it is. The story moves along quickly, the dialog sharp and contemporary and the solution understandable and satisfying. And at the end, there’s a feeling that life in the 87th will go on, even if McBain is not here to tell us about it. He will be missed.

Score: 83

Genre: 15
Realism: 15
Character: 11
Setting: 15
Theme: 10
Style: 15
Bonus: 2
All categories are ranked 1-15 with up to 10 bonus points added. What do these numbers mean?