by Bruce TierneySeptember, 2005
Last note from a master of the procedural
If Ed McBain does not hold the record for sheer numbers of books in a mystery series, I can't imagine who does. Fiddlers, is (by my count) the 55th installment in the 87th Precinct series. For almost 50 years, McBain, who died in July, entertained his readers with perhaps the finest police procedural novels of modern times. By turns ribald, gritty and cynical, this last novel in the famous series is a tale of a serial killer on a mission to right perceived wrongs meted out to him over the span of a lifetime. Veteran policeman Steve Carella is assigned to the first case, the murder of a blind violinist in an alley behind a popular nightspot. Fear not, however. There will be plenty of murders to go around, and all the favorite McBain characters will be on hand Bert Kling, in the throes of despair over the breakup with his African-American girlfriend; Fat Ollie Weeks, desperately trying to lose weight and make time with comely policewoman Patricia Gomez; and of course, the aforementioned Carella. As is the case with earlier McBain stories (and with life, for that matter), there are lots of characters to keep track of (a cheat sheet would be a big help!). That said, murders are rarely solved through the work of one person, and everybody involved has a backstory that contributes to the resolution. And nobody, but nobody, could weave the disparate details together like Ed McBain.