February 06, 1989 12:00 PM

by Ed McBain

This is the 40th book in the 87th Precinct series and, along with Sadie When She Died (1972) and Ice (1983), ranks among the best. The cops, from Meyer Meyer to Steve Carella to Bert Kling, are still on the job, keeping watch over the bloody terrain of the city. It is New Year’s Eve, and the men and women of the 87th are forced to deal with a gang war about to break and the brutal murder of a baby and her sitter. The subplots hover over a female undercover officer’s brush with death, a woman holding a cop at bay with a gun, and two Jamaican drug dealers desperate to kill—anyone. The cops are work-weary, the citizens angry, the crooks strong in number. No writer walks this kind of beat better than McBain. The dialogue is realistic and sharp, the plots move along at page-flashing speed, and the characters are painted with an honest brush—working men and women forced to confront the unexpected savageries of urban life. McBain (who also writes as Evan Hunter) has been writing these police blotter thrillers since the 1956 publication of the very first 87th, Cop Hater. The series has not only grown in number but in quality through the years. Perhaps because he has a precinct full of officers to assign, his characters have become neither tired (as did Gregory MacDonald’s Fletch) nor cynical (as Robert B. Parker’s Spenser has). Instead, McBain has his precinct sparking along in constantly refreshing turbulence. He is, by far, the best at what he does. Case closed. (Morrow, $17.95)

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