by Bruce TierneyJanuary, 2004
Mystery of the month
January's Tip of the Ice Pick Award goes to veteran crime novelist and reigning King of the Police Procedurals Ed McBain for his hilarious and diabolical The Frumious Bandersnatch. Hip-hop diva Tamar Valparaiso is poised on the edge of superstardom. Her controversial new video, a rape-fantasy piece entitled "Frumious Bandersnatch" is set for release, and she plans to debut a live version of it from a rented yacht on the river adjacent to McBain's fabled 87th precinct. All goes awry when a sleek speedboat pulls up alongside. The shindig guests watch helplessly as two armed miscreants disguised as Yasir Arafat and Saddam Hussein make off with the almost-star. Because of the proximity of the crime to the 87th precinct, stalwarts Steve Carella, Cotton Hawes and Fat Ollie Weeks (you may remember the misogynist Weeks from last year's Fat Ollie's Book) will work the case, along with a loosely knit task force comprised of FBI agents and other assorted stragglers. As is often the case in such an unwilling coalition, there is inter-agency rivalry, and much stepping on toes (often creatively, and to the delight of the reader). McBain misses no opportunity to skewer the fickle music industry, sensationalist cable news coverage, our esteemed president, his minions and the so-called Patriot Act. The Frumious Bandersnatch is McBain's 53rd book featuring the cops of the 87th Precinct (this in addition to his legendary work under his real name, Evan Hunter, including the superb The Blackboard Jungle). It would be hard to single out one (or a dozen, for that matter) as the masterpiece(s) of the collection, but each new volume is clever, fast-paced, topical and funny. Not to be missed!