There are 186 patrolmen and a handful of detectives in the 87th Precinct, but it’s never quite enough. Because between petty crimes and major felonies, between crimes of hate and crimes of passion, the city never sleeps — and for these cops, a day never ends…
The night shift has a murdered go-go dancer, a firebombed black church, a house full of ghosts, and a mother trying to get her twenty-two year-old to come home. The day shift: a naked hippie lying smashed on the concrete, two murderous armed robbers in Halloween masks, and a man beaten senseless by four guys using sawed-off broom handles. Altogether, it’s a day in the life. But for a certain cop in the 87th Precinct, it could just be his last…
Title: Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here | Author: Ed McBain | Series: 87th Precinct #25 | Publisher: Pan | Pages: 180 | ISBN: 9780330235495 | Publication date: 1971 | Source: Self-purchased
‘Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here’ is like one of those episodes of a long running TV show where they let the writers have a bit of fun rather than sticking to the normal formula. Such experiments can end in disaster, with a result that only please the writers (anyone remember that episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ with the fly?), but when they’re done well, they can be a delight. This is McBain, so naturally for me it fell into the latter camp.
In this, the 25th of the ‘87th Precinct’ novels, McBain bins the format of the previous 24 books, which typically sees the bulls of the 87th tackling one or two central mysteries. Instead, this book presents a day in the life of the precinct. 24 hours pass, with the detectives and patrolmen tackling a variety of crime, large and small, with none of them dominating. Both the day and night shifts are covered, and so we get to see all the characters we’ve come to grow and love. This being McBain, the crimes are wonderfully varied. Some are humorous – an apparent haunting, a businessman trying to get two prostitutes that have propositioned him arrested. Some serious – a stabbing outside a theatre, a woman who has murdered her family. And some political – the firebombing of a black church. Most get solved, including some that solve themselves by the times the cops find time to investigate, but not all.
To all of this, McBain brings the crisp prose and expert characterisation that makes his work such a joy. This being a book of many small vignettes, his talent from creating people who jump off the page after only a few sentences, comes to the fore. It’s not a typical 87th book, but it is one of the most purely enjoyable, and a pleasure to read from beginning to end.