Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Long Con Week 23 - The Mugger

I don't have this cover, but by God I wish I did.

The Mugger is the first Ed McBain book I've ever read, therefore, it's also the first 87th Precinct book I've read as well.  It's a concept that intrigued me.  Instead of using the old stand-by cities of New York or L.A., McBain created his own.  Sure, many authors do the same thing, but how many create an entire police precinct to go along with it.   Okay, I admit, of course it's based on New York, but I enjoy the idea of a brand new city to explore.

As a tourist though, I'm not sure I'd start my exploration with this precinct.  It's tough as nails, and one of the cops describes it as the worst precinct in the city.  And as the title suggests, there is a mugger on the loose. 

I didn't pick this book because of the title, or the story synopsis.  Frankly, as a title, The Mugger is a little boring.  I've never been mugged, and while I'm sure it's frightening, it just doesn't strike terror like say, a murderer.  I chose this book because it was the second Precinct book that McBain wrote.  Had I been able to get my hands on a copy of Cop Hater, I would have started with that.  I like to start series near the beginning so I don't lose out on back story.  And since McBain wrote over 50 Precinct novels, it seems like there is a lot of history to them.

But back to The Mugger.  While I might not have been overwhelmed by the plot of the story, I can state that I loved the prose.   This is language that doesn't pretty itself up for a big date.  It comes as it is.  No adornments, no sparkling baubles to catch your eye.  These words get straight to the point, and are as sharp as a razor. 

He stood in the shadows of the alley, wearing the night like a cloak.  He could hear his own shallow breathing and beyond that the vast murmur of the city, the murmur of a big bellied woman in sleep.  There were lights in some of the apartments, solitary sentinals piercing the blackness with unblinking yellow.  It was dark where he stood, though, and the darkness was a friend to him, and they stood shoulder to shoulder. Only his eyes glowed in the darkness, watching, waiting.

All this lends itself to a very quick, enjoyable read.  180 pages might not give you plenty of room to explore, but it's a solid introduction.  You may not find yourself contemplating the 87th Precinct when you've turned that final page, but you might end up reaching for another in the series.

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