Cop Hater by Ed McBain
Ed McBain is the author who really created the police procedural novel, with his series of fifty-five 87th Precinct books written between 1956 and 2005. In the introduction to Cop Hater, he tells how he came up with the idea of a squadroom of police officers, all with different characters, whom together would make a ‘conglomerate hero‘. Thus was the 87th Precinct born, set in a fictional city similar to New York. Different policemen star in the novels, and as in real life, they will come and go from the squadroom, with one detective in particular, Steve Carella, holding a central position.
McBain is a pseudonym of Evan Hunter, the author of Blackboard Jungle (1954) in which a new young teacher has to deal with unruly pupils in a New York High School. Hunter took a new pen-name for this series as he was advised that publishing crime fiction under the Hunter name could dilute his success; arguably he went on to achieve even greater popularity as an author as McBain.
Cop Hater is set at the height of a sweltering summer – everyone is suffering from the heat and humidity, even the cops – especially as they know that with the heat comes open windows, raised tempers, and more crime for them to deal with. The novel starts with a man getting up to go to work on the evening shift. But he’ll never get there – for a gunman shoots him in the back of the head. The corpse is no ordinary body either – ‘Mike Reardon was a cop‘.
Steve Carella leads the investigation which faces difficulties from the outset as there were virtually no clues. Then events take on a more frenzied turn when another cop is murdered, and then a third. It must be a ‘cop hater’ – who will be next? Carella is then put in a difficult situation when a journalist prints Carella’s off the record remarks and puts his girlfriend in danger leading to a final twist that I never saw coming.
The drama is backed up by wonderful descriptions of solid policework, taking casts of footprints, blood typing and spatter analysis – telling us how its done without being too heavy-handed, (remember this is the 1950s, so no DNA testing or computers here). Anyone who’s seen the later TV series Hill Street Blues, or NYPD Blue will be able to picture the squadroom, complete with typewriters, and the bar separating the desks at the entrance. Carella is a solid, dependable and likeable detective with a surprisingly tender side to him in his relationship with Teddy, his girlfriend. The other policemen are also well-drawn and complementary, and those who survive will come to the fore in some subsequent novels. I definitely want to read more 87th Precinct novels. (8/10)
I bought this book. For another review read Jenny’s at Shelf-love.
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Cop Hater by Ed McBain